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Virginia Backtracks On Tampon Ban For Prison Visitors

The Virginia Department of Corrections has decided to hold off implementing a controversial new policy that would have barred women from visiting state prisons wearing tampons or menstrual cups.

As NPR's Laurel Wamsley reported on Monday, the policy — meant to prevent the smuggling of contraband — was to have gone into effect next month.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "The department said that if a body scanner indicated a visitor had a foreign object that could be a tampon, they would have their visitation terminated for the day and would have their visitation privileges reviewed," adding that "A department spokeswoman said facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison."

However, Brian Moran, Virginia's secretary of public safety, tweeted Tuesday that the policy would be put on hold "until a more thorough review of its implementation and potential consequences are considered."

The decision to hold off came after widespread media coverage of the decision and strong criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which argued that the policy would have the effect of discouraging visits by family and friends of inmates.

After Tuesday's announcement by Moran, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said: "We hope that the public will stay engaged with and help Secretary Moran understand that this policy should never go into effect."

According to The Associated Press, Phyllis Randall, chairwoman of the state Board of Corrections, sent a letter Tuesday to Moran and Department of Corrections Director Harold Clark saying the policy "represents a major systemic failure" and shows that officials "have lost the ability to effectively keep contraband out of Virginia's prisons."

As Laurel wrote on Monday, "Virginia already has a number of rules dictating dress code for those visiting inmates, the majority which seem targeted at women's clothing. Among the items visitors are banned from wearing are tube tops, tank tops, halter tops, miniskirts, form-fitting clothes, leggings, and 'tops or dresses that have revealing necklines and/or excessive splits.' It also dictates that all visitors 'must wear appropriate underwear."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.