The First Step Act, signed by President Trump in December 2018, requires that female inmates in federal prisons receive free feminine hygiene products. This was much-needed legislation to protect the rights and dignity of the nation’s incarcerated women, who until this legislation relied on limited access to low-quality feminine hygiene products, oftentimes having to pay for this necessity.

A 2019 pilot program in Salt Lake County offering tampons and sanitary pads at no cost in public facility restrooms is progress in protecting women who are working and visiting SLC’s public buildings. It is now time for women jailed in our state and county jails to receive that same dignity. Last year, Arizona passed legislation allowing women in the state prison system to receive free feminine hygiene.

I believe Utah must look at one of our most vulnerable populations with empathy rather than indifference and provide no-cost feminine hygiene products to women in our state and county jails. Menstruation is a biological function that does not cease when someone is jailed. Keeping women medically safe and allowing them to feel dignity rather than shame may be the first step on the road to rehabilitation.

Carrie Gaykowski, Salt Lake City