For over 50 years in Nebraska, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional and individual rights of all people. Beyond one person, party, or side - we the people dare to create a more perfect union. The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color, women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, prisoners, and people with disabilities.
Some of our major victories and actions in 2017 include: defending the rights of same-sex foster parents; sending legal and policy guidance to all 250 school superintendents reminding them of their legal duty to protect immigrant and LGBTQ students; filing Sabata v. Nebraska Department of Corrections, a historic class-action federal court case challenging conditions of confinement in Nebraska's prisons as a result of dangerous overcrowding; and publishing numerous reports.
"I read the articles on the American Civil Liberties Union's request that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services provide free feminine products, including tampons and quality pads, to women prisoners.
Contrary to what the department said, women prisoners do have to pay for quality feminine hygiene products. Although there is one free pad option, other products - tampons, panty liners, and higher-quality pads that women actually want to use - are not free.
I know this because I am currently a prisoner at the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln, a community-level, minimum security work-release prison. I am writing this while I am on a weekend furlough. I am currently serving a sentence for drugs that started in 2016. I hope to be paroled later this year.
My time in prison has been split between the women's prison in York and the Lincoln facility. Neither facility has free options that meet the needs of most women. In York, it is easily a wait of 45 minutes to an hour after asking a staff person to get free pads. At times staff is not available, which means that making a request and waiting can take hours, while the woman is forced to improvise or be in discomfort. At the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln, a woman has to ask her caseworker for the free pads. If caseworkers are not there that day, or if a prisoner does not have a caseworker, a woman has to repeatedly ask other staff or else improvise.
We are not allowed to share any of the products, free or purchased, with other women because this is considered "passing and receiving," which is a violation of prison rules. But it happens. I have personally had other women ask me for tampons because they could not afford them. Some women beg or barter products from other prisoners, which can get them into trouble as they often owe other inmates in some way.
The only women who rely on the free pads are those who cannot afford to purchase the products from the commissary. We joke that the quality of the pads is so poor that you need to use three instead of one, which is why the department gives them out three at a time. The prices in the commissary are very expensive, and many of the women cannot afford the products.
At the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln, it is not as much of a problem because many of the prisoners, like me, are working at jobs in the community and are making some money. But many of the women who do work owe child support, fines, court costs and other debts, or they try to send some money to their families, so any purchases from the commissary are expensive and difficult.
I think it is only fair that the department provide feminine products of better quality that are sufficient for women's health and for free. A few free pads once a month might seem like enough for the men who run the prison system, but for the women who actually live there, especially those who cannot afford products that meet their health care needs, it is far from adequate."
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