Letter from KteeO: Menstruation and Incarceration

We received this letter from KteeO, and she asked us to share it publicly.

I have some thoughts I would like to share if you would like to read:

I must confess that until I was facing incarceration I hadn’t thought much about menstruation in prison; but once I realized that I was going into lockup it became a worry that was always nagging at the back of my mind.

Now that I have spent an entire menstrual cycle in prison (and am half way through another) I realize that my worries were not unfounded. I have found, as have so many others, that bleeding in prison is truly a messed up experience.
It is an experience that either intentionally works to degrade inmates, or degrades us as a result of cost-saving measures; either way, the results are the same. Prison makes us hate a part of our selves; it turns us against our own bodies.

Look, I really hate to overstate things, I don’t like being dramatic, so please understand that I’m not trying to do either of those things when I talk about the effects of prison in combination with menstruation, let me explain.

First, the pads we are given, when they are not out, are inadequate (before I got here there was a time when folks weren’t given pads for two weeks); they are small and don’t have wings and we are given a fixed amount. So what about tampons? There are no tampons at the FDC. If you had the money, one used to be able to purchase over-priced tampons on commissary, but not anymore. They have been out for the first five weeks I have been here, and now without warning, they have been taken off the commissary list.

Okay, so to add to that, we can’t do our laundry and most of the folks here aren’t super comfortable sending down bloody clothes or bedding.

So the result, regardless of the prisons intention, is that even if you embrace your period, it becomes a degrading and limiting experience (speaking of degrading, don’t even get me started on getting strip searches while menstruating, especially without a tampon…) Most people in here describe having your period in prison as one of the worst things about being locked up. It creates stress and uncertainty due to the conditions that we have to deal with.

There is so much more I could say on this topic, but I think I am going to stop for now. I just know it wasn’t something I thought much about before my incarceration, and I wish I would have, so I thought I would share.

I also hope that ya’ll don’t mind that these are a huge stream of consciousness and not my most eloquent thoughts. And a huge thank you to my friend who wades through my horrible spelling and handwriting…

I want to let ya’ll know that I’m still doing just fine. I’m getting to know my new friends better; it’s always exciting when friendships start to become more than just surface. I’m still not a very good card player, but I’m pretty good at volleyball.

I have also been working out and reading a fair amount. I want to thank ya’ll for your incredible support, and again, I am sorry to those I haven’t written back yet. Your words mean so much to me.

Well anyway, keep smiling, keep struggling; in solidarity,


PS: A huge shout out to the incredible humans that are taking care of my cat friend; I miss her every night and every day, but knowing how much love she is receiving makes everything feel somewhat better.

***After writing this, Kteeo has mentioned that pads have become better, and that tampons will return to commissary at some point in the near future***

8 responses to “Letter from KteeO: Menstruation and Incarceration

  1. I’m sure the degradation/humiliation is a complete accident. I mean, it’s not like anyone in power would want to “break” anyone’s spirit, is it. /endsarcasm #Solidarity

  2. right on, KteeO – thank you so much for taking on a taboo subject in a taboo environment. it’s important to know these things, and how else would we know? I wonder if some of the companies that manufacture menstrual cups have an opinion about this? I wonder if they might consider the possibility of helping alleviate this situation? I think I’ll ask a few of them…

  3. Reblogged this on This Mongrel Land and commented:
    KteeO is an anarchist from the pacific northwest serving time for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury. As a fellow anarchist, a person who has a lot of dysphoria surrounding mensruation, and as a person who has a higher than normal probability of future incarceration this hits home in a very real way for me.

    Free the prisoners. Jail the cops. Burn the jails.
    Love and solidarity to all political prisoners.

  4. Is there a way it would be possible to get menstrual cups into prisons?

  5. Stay strong KT! Solidarity from the mountains of colorado.

  6. How about a campaign where everybody sends a tampon in the mail once/week to the Sea-Tac federal detention center administration until they restore their availability?…signature required??

    When locked up in a holding cell in Mason County due to an unlawful arrest, I needed and noted the lack of toilet paper. I asked for some and it, eventually, was provided. When I commented on how disgusting this was, some comment about prisoners abusing it was made.

    I suddenly realize the extent of the degradation by observing how I felt compelled to mention the arrest was ‘unlawful’! The state has gone a long way in brainwashing the public into believing in the stigmatization. The Church I was raised in once groused about Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nothing but a ‘common criminal’, they said, referring to his stint in the Burmingham jail. Employers and landlord promote the stigmatization by checking online for arrest records. I suspect the failure to provide the simple human decency of necessary hygiene products is not unintentional. It’s all part of the package deal.

  7. Not to be too verbose, but there are members of the public who have no idea…including the criminal defense attorneys. Some years ago, Jefferson County, WA. built a new jail, correctly assuming they could rent what they didn’t fill at a profit.

    When you were place in ‘the hole’, you got 1 shower/week, 3 if you were sufficiently submissive. Your nylon jail jumpsuit was laundered but once/week. It didn’t smell all that great after 7 days of wearing it 24/7. Guards would punish those who didn’t have it on.

    ‘Not so bad, I can maybe handle that,’ you’re thinking? Well, they jail wouldn’t use hot water to do the inmates’ laundry, only lukewarm. This didn’t kill the scabies which soon infested many of the prisoners. The jail staff correctly concluded hot water costs more than cold water. And if inmates smelled bad and were ridden with lice/scabies, so much the better for insuring they suffered and the public/visitors/attorneys had a low opinion of them.

    It’s all part of the program–a medieval and barbaric practice the public continues to embrace even in the 21st Century. And that’s just the nice part. Don’t get me started on the ‘chicken fights’ the guards would instigate, the interference with mail, the denial of phone book directories to find a number you need to call, the jail doctor emphasizing taking your biometrics for the state rather than protecting your health, and the chief jail guard deliberately making the food as unpalatable to prisoners as possible so there’d be more left over to feed his hogs at home. (I’m NOT kidding!)

    This kind of abuse and the public’s ignoring it has already positioned itself to bite them in the ass. Back east with the overcrowding of the jails/prisons, a strain of tuberculosis resistant to all known antibiotics has developed…more highly communicable incurable diseases on the way, I’m sure. Bon Apetit!

  8. What about painkiller availability for menstrual cramps? Have people found that painkillers (Ei. NSAIDS, ibuprofin, etc) Are available for pain? What is the situation with pain management in prison?

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