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Tyler Richard, (402) 476-8091x104, trichard@aclunebraska.org

October 19, 2017

New spotlight investigation shows Nebraska correctional facilities over charging for pads, tampons, and other unique concerns facing incarcerated Nebraska women.

LINCOLN, Neb – Today the ACLU of Nebraska released a new white paper that investigates the state of women prisoners in Nebraska. The number of women in America’s prisons has been increasing around the country. The ACLU’s investigation found Nebraska’s population of women in prison has been increasing, but remains slightly lower than the national average. When it comes to young women in prison, however, Nebraska has the fifth highest incarceration rate with 119 of every 100,000 young women incarcerated or committed.

“A woman in a jail or prison in Nebraska will likely have difficulty accessing health care and pay more for tampons and pads than she would at a grocery store,” said Scout Richters, Legal and Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska. “Women who have spoken with the ACLU have told us stories of bleeding for days in jail or prison due to not having access to tampons or pads. Others have reported going months without access to medical care after reporting issues, such as one woman who had a three-month long menstrual cycle. When women in jails and prisons cannot change a tampon or pad regularly, it can lead to infections and, in some cases, toxic shock syndrome, which can be deadly."  

The ACLU found that frequently, women in Nebraska prisons and jails are being charged 20 to 50% more for tampons and other menstrual products than the prices at local grocery stores or pharmacies. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons increased access to these items at no cost to prisoners in August of this year. The ACLU looked at prices of these items through the Nebraska Department of Corrections, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center facility in Geneva, the Douglas County Jail and the Lancaster County Jail. In all instances, a woman would need to pay more than she would at a local store for similar menstrual products.

For prisoners who are parents, an additional concern is the high costs of phone calls from county jails to families. At some point in their lives about one in ten Nebraska children will have a parent in the criminal justice system. While the Nebraska Department of Corrections has a program for incarcerated mothers, counties often lack such programs in spite of increasingly keeping women and other prisoners for months at a time.

Racial disparities also exist for women in Nebraska’s prisons. Women who are Black, Latina and Native American are overrepresented in Nebraska’s prisons. Three in ten women in Nebraska prisons are people of color while only one out of ten Nebraska women is a person of color.

“Nebraska’s prisons and jails are overburdened with women who don’t need to be there. Women are more likely to be in a Nebraska prison or jail due to a nonviolent offense, particularly one that is drug-related” said ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad. “Reform requires our state and counties to look at all aspects of our system, from modern-day debtors’ prisons to the misguided war on drugs. Additionally, the decline in funding for mental health services is leading to more Nebraska women being placed behind bars.

“While these reforms may take time, women in Nebraska facilities need better access to health care today. We call on Director Scott Frakes to act immediately by following the lead of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in providing tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products free of charge. This is one small but important steps Nebraska leaders can and should take to improve prison conditions. It’s about gender equity, reproductive justice, and basic dignity and respect for our Nebraska neighbors who are incarcerated."

For a copy of the report: aclunebraska.org/womeninprison

For an overview of women in prison nationally: https://www.aclu.org/news/new-report-prison-policy-initiative-and-aclu-p...

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