Womens Conditions

by Amber Powell #662930
Sycamore Unit
Gatesville, Texas

On the first Thursday of every month the female prisoners of T.D.C.J. are suppose to receive their monthly supply of of sanitary napkins and Tampax.
The monthly supply consists of 15 sanitary pads and 15 Tampax. While it may make sense to split these numbers down the middle as far as distribution of each item, it often creates more problems than it alleviates, when it comes time for thousands of females's menutral cycles.
To begin with not many offenders can wear Tampax, Thus, leaving only only 15 pads to last them for the duration of their cycle.. how long does one cycle last in comparison to the next woman, There is such a difference. After interviewing so many prisoners, I began to see there are deeper issues at hand concerning sanitary supplies.
How can any one gauge how much a female offender needs to use in supplies for their monthly cycles? Realistically, there is no gauge. It seems that just being a female prisoner, these supplies should always be available, not on short supply or late on distribution. Therein lies even deeper issues. Wouldn't you like to know what is really behind the vending process and why so many problems are arising now? We would too.
Should it really have to come to an offender wielding the grievance procedure, just to get some supplies for their cycles? Why is it they are having to fight for what are absolute necessities? It is dehumanizing beyond comparison what so many prisoners have had to endure and still suffer through today. Their punishment was to be sent to prison. Their constitutional amendments are inforced to insure that such cruelty doesn't exist.
Unfortunately, T.D.C.J, doesn't care or want to acknowledge existing problems, they are aware of, until forced to. The wheels of .T.D.C.J. turn slowly because this is how officials want it.
It reminds me of how offenders once received medication for sinus allergies and headaches through the guards. Over time these started to become scarce, the guards stole them, inmates hoarded and suddenly word gets out that the same medication we use to get for free will now be sold on commissary, and so it is today.Indigent inmate cannot get any at all. The way the pads and tissues are scarce, reminds me that soon I should look for these items on the unit commissary. Guess what? Low and behold I purchased Maxi thins while on the reception Gatesville unit(panty liners, not pads) I want to know who is getting a piece of the pie here.
On one hand we have the dark, murky authorities in command playing the Price Is Right, while on the other hand we have much ignored suffrages of the female prison population, especially on the Gatesville facilities and Hobby unit.

The female prisoners speak out

Cheryl Penny # 935895
Some women can't wear tampons, so they are forced to wear only 12-15 pads for the duration of their cycle. There are no substitutes. This provokes us to traffic and trade, Who is going to voluntarily wear the same pad repeatedly if they can't wear tampons? No one. Not if they can be obtained elsewhere.

Patricia Watkins #744382
The pads come 12 to a package. We get 15. Someone has touched and added the extra 3 into the paper sack. Who touched my pads? Another offender? A guard? Where have the extra pads been kept and in what? Did they (whoever they are) wash their hands before they touched them?

Pat Antonio #1048160
Theres simply aren't enough. We're females. e should have access to as many as we need.

Amelia Johnson #640983
I've witnessed women not having pads to change or have any access to, in the strip shack, whenever we strip outside our living areas. The pads weren't available the majority of the time or none at all. The female prisoners didn't even have tissue for protection. Tissue isn't adequate protection anyway. Tissue is improper protection. The prisoners would have to go straight to the chow hall with bloody, soiled garments. It's dehumanizing..very degrading and humiliating.

For those offenders who are in transit, off the unit at the time of issue, going through menopause and having ongoing medical problems that require extra sanitary pads, are stuck out the majority of the time. Once having to: prove" that their present conditions are bloody enough. Imagine how that gets done?
Other than medical requests often proving there is a need, females can request at the unit level for more supplies. Do they ever come back with an answer? No. Ranking officials know what they say can and will be used against them too, by denying sanitary supplies in the form of a written response. When officials are approached by an offender, the offender is pacified with a promise to check into it. It never happens.
The offender grievance process as is today, allows officials to address the issue, yet not directly take an approach to remedy the problem. Quoting what has already been slated in the grievance back to the offender as an answer is standard procedure. Warden Ament neatly doesn't address what she knows is an inherent miscarriage of justice. I know this first hand.
The public isn't aware, nor are the masses of offender family members, that no is no in here and yes is yes. If an officer says no she/he won't call the next in command to see about getting sanitary supplies. That's the way it is. Until an offender can move around on the unit to talk to rank in passing, this offender either uses her supply of tissue for the week to stop from bleeding on herself or she traffic and trades, forced to break the rules. What will she use for tissue when it's gone? How can the state say, "grieve it", knowing the response won't come back in time, The offender has already gone through the emotional havoc of bleeding all over herself.
I don't like tidy,placating responses from the outside agencies or staff within. When it comes to resolving issues or miscarriages of justice within these fences, what do any of them actually care about about when it comes to our supplies as long as they have their own? Now ask me me how did they actually get their own.

Solidarity and light
Amber Powell #662930
Sycamore Unit
Gatesville, Texas