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Gay Lawmaker Wants Tampons for Female Inmates

SHEVRIN JONES

Florida female inmates have reportedly traded sex for hygiene products in prison.

An out lawmaker in south Florida says the state must start providing adequate female hygiene products for inmates and filed legislation requiring prisons to address the human issue.

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat, told Florida Politics that adequate supplies for prisoners should be viewed as a human rights issue.

"This is not a Democrat or Republican issue," he said. "This is a human issue to ensure that regardless of what crimes they have committed, everyone deserves to be treated with some type of dignity, no matter their status."

The move comes two years after a Miami Herald investigation of Lowell Correctional Institute in Ocala documents accusations that guards forced inmates to trade sex for tampons, toilet paper, and other basic health products.

Former inmate Cynthia Harper told the newspaper guards there would make her have sex to avoid solitary confinement.

Jones worked with Florida activist Valencia Gunder on the "Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act."

Gunder said the conditions of women's prisons deserve attention by policymakers.

"When it comes to decreasing mass incarceration, women are not usually the center of conversation," she told Florida Politics.

The conditions in women's prisons received more wide widespread attention after the release of Piper Kerman's 2010 memoir Orange Is the New Blackand its subsequent Netflix adaptation.

But in the midst of the #MeToo movement and new cultural conversation on sexual abuse against women by men in positions of power, discussions on improving conditions for women in prison may finally win attention from lawmakers in state capitals.

Jones came out publicly as gay last year when he authorized Equality Florida to include him on a list of openly LGBTQ candidates in Florida. While married to a woman when he first won election to the state House in 2012, he later divorced her. He said he decided to come out following the death of his older brother.

The act made Jones Florida's first queer person of color in the Legislature, and he's now one of three openly LGBTQ lawmakers in the Florida House.

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