An act to ensure women inmates are given free access to hygiene products has unanimously passed the House a second time and is now ready to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
After the House originally approved the bill, the Senate passed an amended version, slightly altering some of the bill’s language. The House sponsors, Reps. Shevrin Jones and Amy Mercado, agreed to that amendment Monday, as did 112 of their colleagues in the House.
The version of the bill approved by the House requires women be provided, without charge, “feminine hygiene products, if needed for an active menstrual cycle.” The Senate amendment spells out that women be offered “feminine hygiene products, including tampons.”
Abusive behavior that the bill seeks to curb was documented at Central Florida’s Lowell Prison in 2015 by the Miami Herald.
Women at Lowell told the newspaper they were forced to exchange sex for soap, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.
“Women are the fastest growing prison population in this country, and yet, the treatment they receive and conditions in which they are housed are shameful,” Jones said when the bill passed the first time.
“I am encouraged that my fellow state lawmakers recognize the importance of rectifying this injustice. Health and hygiene products should not be used as a bargaining chip that is only accessible to those who can afford it. All people, regardless of societal or economic status, deserve safe, healthy environments, access to basic necessities, and above all, dignity.”
The bill would also seek to shield women inmates from abuse by restricting the use of pat-down searches by male correctional officers.
Sen. Jason Pizzo sponsored the Senate version of the bill.