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Virginia prisons reverse ban on tampons following criticism

Virginia prisons reverse ban on tampons following criticism
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Virginia's secretary of public safety announced Tuesday that a new policy banning visitors from using tampons or menstrual cups on the premises has been reversed after facing criticism from lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Public safety secretary Brian Moran on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that the policy was suspended until its "potential consequences" could be fully understood.

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"Having been recently informed of a recent Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) visitation policy, I have ordered its immediate suspension until further review," Moran said.

"A number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure," he continued. "Though the policy has not taken effect and is scheduled for October 6, I feel it appropriate to immediately suspend the newly developed policy until a more thorough review of its implementation and potential consequences are considered."

The policy, if enacted, would require visitors to remove the feminine hygiene products upon entering the prison in favor of a pad offered by prison staff, a move which officials said was aimed at cutting down the possibility of visitors smuggling drugs to inmates.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections told The New York Times on Tuesday that prison officials had discovered “many instances” of visitors attempting to smuggle drugs to inmates by concealing them in various body cavities.

“Offenders in Virginia have died of drug overdoses while inside our prisons,” Lisa Kinney said. “It’s our job to keep the offenders and staff as safe as we can.”

A spokesman for the ACLU, Bill Farrar, told the Times on Tuesday that the policy would have negative effects on inmates attempting to remain in contact with friends and family ahead of reentry to society.

“We’re not sure why this policy is needed now,” Farrar told the Times. "[T]his can have a very negative effect and discourage people from visiting those who are incarcerated.”

Virginia state Del. Kaye Kory (D), who introduced a bill to provide free feminine hygiene products to inmates earlier this year, celebrated Moran's decision in a tweet.

“I thank Sec. Moran for recognizing that this policy is harassment, discrimination and a violation of privacy. Delighted to hear it has been rescinded,” she said.