UPIC Celebrates House Bill 83 With BRAWS at Friends of Guest House

Va. Del. Dana Roem with Holly Seibold (founder of BRAWS) and Kari Galloway (executive director of FOGH)

UPICares and partner BRAWS, celebrated the passing of Virginia House Bill 83 last week, which requires the state to provide free feminine hygiene products to incarcerated women.  The event honoring legislators and advocates who worked tirelessly to pass what we would call a “dignity act,” was held at Friends of Guest House in Alexandria, Va. (FOGH).

While the bill requires the state to provide the products for free in jails and prisons, the State Board of Corrections still could limit access to the products, according to a recent article on the topic.  And another bill that would have eliminated the “pink taxes” on such products did not pass this session.

Shortly after a similar federal Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act was introduced by several U.S. Senators last year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a memo making tampons and pads available free of charge to all incarcerated women in federal prison.

So, while the tides are turning, much more work needs to be done.

Imprisoned women’s have been instrumental in bringing the need for on-demand feminine products to the forefront of the legislative agenda.  And balancing the political parties of the Virginia House in 2017 definitely helped as well.  The bill was introduced by Del. Kaye Kory and supported by Northern Virginia representatives Del. Dana Roem, Del. Mark Keam, and Sen. Barbara Favola, among others.

Friends of Guest House
FOGH, which helps women transition out of prison and into society, has all sorts of real examples and data on the positive effects of treating women with dignity.  The organization has helped more than 3,000 women re-enter the community since its founding in 1974.

FOGH reports that 70 percent of female offenders will re-enter the prison system if they do not have services such as those provided by the Guest House.  And in fact, less than 10 percent of FOGH clients re-offend.  As nearly 80 percent of the women in jail are mothers, the positive effects of FOGH services are compounded and pass through generations.

Friends of Guest House

By helping women, we have also impacted the lives of more than 4,000 children and countless families across our community,” says FOGH.

When viewing prison through the lens of reform, there should be no doubt that prisoners deserve safety, security, and basic human rights (such as pads and tampons). Providing these essentials will ensure incarcerated females can focus on what matters: healing and rehabilitation.

Thus, House Bill 83, signed by Governor Ralph Northam and effective as of July 1, is a huge step in paving the way for dignity, empathy, and healing for females in the Virginia prison system.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter @UPICHealth.

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