Virginia is suspending a newly introduced policy that would have barred women who visit inmates at state prisons from using tampons or menstrual cups. Secretary of Public and Homeland Security Safety Brian Moran said Tuesday on Twitter that he'd ordered an "immediate suspension until further review." The abrupt about-face comes a day after widespread media coverage of state prison officials' plan to ban tampons starting next month as a way to prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons, the AP reports. Moran said he understands the worries about contraband, but he added "a number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure." "I feel it appropriate to immediately suspend the newly developed policy until a more thorough review of its implementation and potential consequences are considered," Moran said.
Inmate advocates had been sharply critical of the policy, saying it violates the privacy rights of female visitors. ACLU of Virginia chief Claire Gastanaga says the policy should be permanently put to rest rather than suspended. Corrections rep Lisa Kinney previously said the agency had consulted with the state AG's office about how to implement the policy and "it was decided that facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison so the tampons don't appear as possible contraband on a body scan." She said that when potential contraband is seen on a scan, visitors are offered the choice of a strip search or leaving the prison before their visit. "Offenders in Virginia have died of drug overdoses while inside our prisons. It's our job to keep the offenders and staff as safe as we can," Kinney said at the time. (Read more Virginia stories.)