Women who visit inmates at Virginia prisons will be barred from wearing tampons or menstrual cups under a new policy stemming from concerns about contraband, the state Department of Corrections said Monday. A spokeswoman said the policy is aimed at preventing contraband like drugs from being smuggled into prisons. "If someone chooses to visit a Virginia Department of Corrections inmate, he or she cannot have anything hidden inside a body cavity," spokeswoman Lisa Kinney wrote in an email. Kinney said that after the DOC consulted with the state Attorney General's Office, "it was decided that facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison." Inmate advocates sharply criticized the policy, saying it violates the privacy rights of female visitors, per the AP.
"That's such a violation," said Jana White, a co-founder of the Virginia Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. "I can't understand why we, the loved ones, have to go through this." Kinney said that when potential contraband is seen on a body scan, visitors are offered the choice of a strip search or leaving the prison without visiting with an inmate. In a Sept. 20 letter sent to visitors and inmates at the Nottoway Correctional Center, Warden David Call said the policy stems from concerns that the feminine hygiene products could be "an ideal way to conceal contraband." The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia urged DOC Chief Harold Clarke to reverse the policy. "A policy like this one that requires those who wish to visit people who are incarcerated to set aside their dignity and health is simply unacceptable," the ACLU said in a statement. (Read more prisons stories.)