New Virginia prison policy prohibiting visitors from wearing tampons gets suspended

Posted at 5:11 PM, Sep 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-25 16:37:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Women visiting friends, family, and loved ones incarcerated in Virginia prisons were not going to be allowed to wear tampons during visits starting October 6.

The change was announced by the Virginia Department of Corrections however, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the Commonwealth of Virginia Brian Moran sent out the following tweets announcing the suspension of the change in policy Tuesday afternoon.

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

Monday the Department of Corrections said “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. “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.”

News 3's Margaret Kavanagh met up with a local woman who is furious over the state's new policy. Kristian Jones makes regular visits to see her loved one, Jemond Townes, who has three more years left in his sentence.

"During visitation over the weekend we were told to read a note that was posted," Jones said.

The note told visitors that beginning next month, they are not allowed to wear tampons when visiting prisons.

"I think it's disgusting. I think it's inhumane. It's unsanitary," she said. "I understand keeping drugs out of the prison, but if we’re honest here a lot of drugs go in through other ways -  not just through the women, not just through the visitors."

Prison officials say there have been inmates who have died of drug overdoses while in custody and say it's their job to keep offenders and staff as safe as they can.

However, people like Jones say it's going a bit too far.

"I understand keeping the inmates safe, keeping the CEOs safe - you definitely don’t want any issues there but to literally have to remove a tampon and take what you give me, it’s just... it’s gruesome."

The ACLU of Virginia responded to the policy with the following statement: