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Incarcerated Women Say Arizona Department Of Corrections Is Withholding Toilet Paper And Tampons, Again

Three incarcerated women living in the same unit at the Perryville prison in Goodyear say the Arizona Department of Corrections is withholding toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.

KJZZ is not identifying the women or their unit because they all expressed fear of retaliation for contacting the press.

The women say correctional officers, citing costs, are strictly enforcing a one-roll-at-a-time policy where guards must search inmates’ living areas before they are allowed to get an additional roll of toilet paper.

Correctional officers have to call a sergeant’s office and clear the inmate, who is then allowed to exchange their empty roll for a new one, the women allege.

One woman claims a new deputy warden has ushered in the changes.

“This situation is demeaning and unnecessary,” she wrote. “We have now been informed that tampons and pads will not be available to us on our yards and we will have to go through the same process ... Making this issue so difficult is accomplishing nothing and is abusive.”

The women all said the supply of tampons and pads keeps running out and they have to repeatedly ask the officers for more. Inmates names are being logged when they ask for more toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, the women said.

“They are saying they are running out of money because of toilet paper,” one woman wrote. “Every week they search our rooms to see how much toilet paper we have. If you have any tp left on your roll it counts as one and we’re only given one instead of two.”

“Now if we run out we have to go to a supervisor and they call down to your yard to search your room to make sure you’re not lying,” she continued. “It’s so humiliating to have to go through so many officers just to be able to use the restroom.”

When presented with the claims, Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said “an inmate may request and, without charge, receive additional pads, if necessary. Additional product options will continue to be available through the inmate store. I have checked with the unit and been advised that every building has plenty of the feminine hygiene supplies, which will remain available in the building workstations/control rooms.”

Lamoreaux did not address the access to toilet paper.

After State Representative Athena Salman addressed the issue of feminine hygiene for Perryville inmates at the statehouse in February of 2018, the Arizona Department of Corrections updated its policy, guaranteeing women access to 36 pads and or tampons each month.

ADC has no written regulations on toilet paper, but in October 2018, former spokesman Andrew Wilder said ADC had taken “proactive steps to ensure its inmates had continuous access to toilet paper.”

“Currently, inmates are provided two rolls each week and, if they run out, they may obtain additional rolls anytime from prison staff by exchanging an empty roll of paper for a new one,” Wilder said.

However Wilder said the new policy change had resulted in a “significant increase” in toilet paper usage, which had caused costs at Perryville to triple from $16,000 to $48,000 per quarter.

All of the women who wrote to KJZZ said ADC employees cited costs as the reason for the strict policy enforcement.

The women also said the process of having to ask correctional officers for tampons and toilet paper was being used against them.

“The sergeants are rude most of the time and it is embarrassing,” one woman wrote from Perryville. “There are so many women in here that are broken for one reason or another. We’re all in a dead zone, locked away, forgotten about, and suffering.”

“The staff here does not think about how their lack of care or compassion truly affects us,” another woman wrote. “The things we go through in here are inhumane and demeaning.”

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.