Donating to Women Prisoners Denied Medical Supplies

Donating to Women Prisoners Denied Medical Supplies August 31, 2015

Prisons price tampons and pads out of the range of what some women prisoners can afford.  Forcing indigent prisoners to bleed into their clothes can pose health/sanitary problems, but, even if it were no problem, medically, it would still be a terrible situation to force prisoners into simply because it is humiliating.

And, as far as I can tell, my friend Clare has the same “Someone ought to do something” reaction as me when she read that, but then decided that she was that someone.

She’s raising money to cover the cost of period supplies for women in a prison near her, and I’ve made a donation.  I figured some of you might want the chance to donate, too.

Clare’s still in the process of talking to the prison, to figure out the logistics of exactly how to pass the money along, but, in this case, that wasn’t an impediment to me donating, because I know Clare personally (and that she’s a pistol, generally), so I trust her to work this out.

This is one of those fundraisers that I want to help out with, but where I’m pretty sure I’m not donating where my money does the most good, most cheaply.  So, I fell back on my usual Effective Altruist habit — any donation I make to a non-EA cause gets matched by a donation to one of GiveWell’s top ranked charities.

I don’t want to squelch (and ultimately desensitize) my desire to be of help just because it’s not aimed at the highest leverage causes, but I also don’t want to only give to causes and people who happen to move me.  Paired donations lets my desire to do good nearby spur me to do more for people far away.

Of course, if you want to get a little more into the ethical weeds, I’d also say that Clare’s project doesn’t really feel like charity in the same way that many altruist projects do — it seems like a matter of justice.  If we’re going to lock people up, we assume a duty of stewardship over them–a more acute version of the duty of love we have for all other humans.  Here, and in many other prisons, we’re not living up to the responsibility we’ve chosen.

red on my ledger

It would take a lot more than Clare’s project to be adequate reparations for the way we mistreat prisoners, and to make the structural changes that would prevent future abuse, but, while I look for longer term solutions, I’m very happy that Clare saw a small way she could do something and is charging ahead.  If you’d like to join her and me, the donation page is here.

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