Arizona Authorities Dispute Product Shortage at Women’s Prison

By Eric Althoff

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — A controversy has been sparked in Perryville Prison, Arizona’s sole complex specifically for female inmates, where some inmates allege they are not being given enough toilet paper and feminine products.

Perryville is home to some 4,000 women, according to NPR. This month two of the inmates sent letters to relatives describing their situation and dearth of basic supplies, NPR reported. While some work has been done to curb the shortage, it’s not enough, say advocates.

The Arizona Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ), a social justice group with a branch in Tucson, shared information with Construction News confirming reports from family members of women held at ASPC-Perryville about a shortage.

“In more than one case, a woman reported being told by Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) staff that the reason for the shortage of toilet paper was the increased expense resulting from a new policy change requiring women to have access to unlimited feminine hygiene supplies,” the AFSC-AZ reported in a statement. “They were told they had to choose between toilet paper or pads and tampons, but could not have both.”

However, the reported shortage is deeply refuted by representatives of the ADC, who told Correctional News this week that the accusation made by the Arizona Friends Service Committee “was and is a fabrication.”

“Here in Arizona, there is an attempt by a few to reenergize and politicize the feminine hygiene issue ahead of our state’s 2019 legislative session, and toilet paper appears to be the means by which some seek to achieve that,” said Andrew Wilder of the ADC media relations. “But any allegation that the female inmates do not have adequate toilet paper is simply not supported by the facts. Our female inmates automatically receive a baseline of two rolls a week. They can — and do — obtain additional rolls anytime upon request at the officer station, by turning in an empty roll. Further, this is at no cost to the inmate.”

This despite the American Friends Service Committee saying it has confirmed reports from family members of women incarcerated at ASPC-Perryville that guards have denied them access to toilet paper.

“One lawmaker proposed a bill requiring ADC to provide unlimited pads and tampons, but the bill was pulled after ADC agreed to change its policy,” the committee said in its statement.

NPR reported that the corrections department earlier this year increased its budget for toilet paper.

“The only reported complaints are ones supposedly presented from the AFSC seeking media attention, not to the prison itself,” Wilder said in his rebuttal. “It is common sense that if what that group alleges was truly occurring, ADC, and local media, would have been inundated with complaints from inmates and their families. And that never happened.

“In light of this, no other outlets have moved forward with their own reporting,” Wilder said, “because the facts do not support the false and unsubstantiated allegation AFSC was trying to sell.”