Virginia suspends tampon prison ban citing ‘a number of concerns’

RICHMOND, Va. — The State of Virginia has suspended a not-yet-enforced policy that would have prevented women from wearing tampons while visiting state prisons and correctional facilities.

The tampon ban was designed to keep the offenders and prison staff safe from those who wanted to smuggle drugs and other contraband into prison, according to a Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesperson.

“Having been recently informed of a recent Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) visitation policy, I have ordered its immediate suspension until further review,” Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran tweeted Tuesday. “I understand DOC’s precautionary steps to detect the rising threat of contraband, overdoses and even deaths among our offender population. A number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure. 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.”

Moran’s announcement came one day after the Virginia Department of Corrections confirmed its soon-to-take-effect tampon policy to CBS 6.

“If someone chooses to visit a Virginia Department of Corrections inmate, he or she cannot have anything hidden inside a body cavity,” Virginia Department of Corrections Director of Communications Lisa Kinney explained on Monday. “There have been many instances in which visitors have attempted to smuggle drugs into our prisons by concealing those drugs in a body cavity, including the vagina. In consultation with the Attorney General’s office, it was decided that facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison so the tampons don’t appear as possible contraband on a body scan.”

When potential contraband is discovered during a body scan, that visitor must either submit to a strip search or leave the facility, Kinney said.

“It’s our job to keep the offenders and staff as safe as we can,” she added. “We know that people who have loved ones in Virginia prisons don’t want visitors to be able to smuggle in lethal drugs, putting their loved ones’ lives in danger.”