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March 19, 2019

In response to complaint regarding the Buckingham Correctional Center's denial of visiting privileges to menstruating individuals, the ACLU of Virginia sent a letter asking Warden Bernard W. Booker to stop implementing this discriminatory ban and reinstate visiting privileges for anyone suspended under such policy. 

"Banning menstruating visitors from using sanitary napkins, tampons, or menstrual cups denies them their basic human dignity and ignores their legitimate health needs," stated the letter. "It also discourages individuals from visiting inmates. As you are aware, these visits are critical to maintaining inmates’ connections to their families and communities and assisting inmates in their rehabilitation and eventual, successful re-entry to society."

Any policy banning visitors from using necessary menstrual products is a gross overreach into visitors’ personal healthcare decisions that is entirely unjustified by the proposed rationale of stemming contraband. All inmates are already strip searched following contact visitation. It is therefore unnecessary to prohibit menstruating visitors from using necessary products to prevent contraband from entering the facility. Any hypothetical contraband would be discovered during the inmate’s strip search prior to re-entry into the prison population.

Further, as it has been implemented, this menstrual product policy functionally bans any menstruating visitor from contact visits. Even when visitors submit to strip searches and are not found with contraband, they are unfairly limited to noncontact visits only. "If use of a menstrual product automatically requires a strip search, menstruating visitors can never participate in contact visits," the letter stated. "This outcome is ludicrous at best, and discriminatory at worst."

For these above reasons, the ACLU of Virginia urged Warden Booker to cease banning menstruating visitors from using necessary menstrual products and to reinstate the visiting privileges of anyone denied for refusing to submit to the policy.

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