ACLU Protests Degrading Body Cavity Searches of CO Women Inmates

Really outrageous that this is happening in Denver. Meet the "labia lift" -- It's like a strip search times 10, read the details. Thanks to the ACLU for protesting and bringing it to light. Their letter is here. It begins:

We write in response to a new and degrading type of body cavity search practiced at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF). DWCF prisoners – who already submit to strip searches on a routine basis – now must hold open their labia as correctional officers, sometimes using a flashlight, sometimes positioning their faces only inches away from a prisoner’s genitals, conduct an inspection. Reports even indicate that some prisoners have been forced to pull back the skin of their clitorises. These searches occur even when the guards have no particularized reason to suspect concealment of contraband – correctional officers search prisoners’ body cavities on a frequent basis, after work assignments and visits from friends and family. Guards have threatened prisoners who resist with pepper spray.

More here. [More...]

Some interesting statistics:

Experts on mental health care in prison have estimated that as many as 80 percent of women who are in jail or prison have been the victims of domestic violence and physical abuse prior to their conviction, a reality that compounds the infliction of pain caused by the needless body cavity searches. According to the ACLU's letter, courts have found that the previous sexual abuse suffered by many female prisoners increases the trauma caused by invasive strip searches and heightens the constitutional violation. Indeed, the ACLU has received letters in recent weeks from prisoners at DWCF who complain that being forced to comply with the new search policy – under the threat of being doused with pepper spray – exacerbates prior sexual trauma.

And if you wonder why your female client is not thrilled to see you when you come to visit:

The ACLU's letter also charges that body cavity searches also may have occurred after prisoner visits with their lawyers. Not only are the searches unwarranted after such visits because of the low probability that an attorney would ever agree to smuggle narcotics or weapons into a prison, but they also could deter prisoners from meeting with their lawyers, compromising legal representation.

These searches can't possibly pass constitutional muster:

The body cavity search policies raise grave concerns under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. While courts generally have upheld visual inspections, in this case, the requirement that prisoners hold open their labia for inspection on a routine basis and without reasonable suspicion – when considered in conjunction with preexisting strip search practices already designed to uncover contraband – becomes so gratuitous as to constitute unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.

Where correctional officers lack reasonable suspicion that a prisoner is concealing contraband, preexisting strip search procedures more than suffice to address security concerns. In such cases, forcing prisoners to hold open their labia only inflicts needless suffering.

What does the warden say? Reportedly, after receiving a number of complaints, he posted a one sentence memo in the womens' units, saying the searches would continue.

< Tom DeLay Loses Bid to Move Trial From Austin | Report: Full Body Scanners to be Deployed in Street Vans >
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  • Display: Sort:
    I am a big law and order guy (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by me only on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 08:10:17 PM EST
    and I even I think this is going too far.

    Good for ACLU (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Lora on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 09:09:17 PM EST
    I'm glad the ACLU is protesting.  I worry, though, that the protest, in the end, will be just that.  There are too many civil rights violations and too little relief.

    Disgusting and sadistic (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 09:40:56 PM EST
    I don't know whatnthe value can possible be. At some point you have to accept the fact that stuff is going to get smuggled in, and deal with it another way.

    So what would they smuggle (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 11:04:34 PM EST
    in their labia, for crying out loud?  It ain't weapons, that's for sure.  I agree with Jeralyn, this is more than just a constitutional violation, it's literally the product of a sick mind that needs to be removed from having any authority over anyone, especially apparently women.

    Yoo-hoo!  Governor Ritter!!


    Drugs (none / 0) (#9)
    by me only on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:56:59 AM EST
    that's what I was assuming (none / 0) (#10)
    by ruffian on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:45:12 AM EST
    i think they should admit they've lost the 'war on drugs' if this is what they are resorting to in fighting it.

    Admitting defeat... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:58:25 AM EST
    would be an admission that we were ever trying to win, that we actually thought drugs could be beat despite thousands of years of human history as evidence to the contrary.

    It was always about modern-day Jim Crow, tyranny profiteering, and destroying individual rights & human dignity...nobody is that dumb to think drugs could be beat...it's just another means of control.

    Like Ayn Rand once said...

    There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

    She always forgets (none / 0) (#12)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:12:41 AM EST
    the part about the government being there to intercede when the powerful overstep their bounds. And o.k, yes, that's in theory, but it's not a bad theoretical place to start or to aspire to.

    95% of the time... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:31:21 AM EST
    I see government f*ckin' with the powerless, needlessly criminalizing the powerless.

    Theory can't seem to make it into practice my brother.


    You think it's (none / 0) (#15)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:10:54 PM EST
    just some weird paradox that Ayn is the favorite philosopher of those people Matt Taibbi writes about?

    Just my opinion, but if you really wanna go with the gusto, you're better off going with the one she stole all her (good) ideas from, Nietzsche. Who's also, btw, a better writer.


    I'm no Objectivist... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:52:10 PM EST
    if that's what you're thinking...I just think the lady had a good point once in awhile...especially about using criminal law to turn the innocent into the guilty, to make them afraid and more easily controlled.

    And I do need to read more Nietzsche:)


    No, I know you're (none / 0) (#18)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:58:48 PM EST
    not one of those guys who treats objects like women..

    It's just that after reading Taibbi's stuff recently, just seeing that name in print sorta sets me off.


    Taibbi has been on fire... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:11:46 PM EST
    for over two years...give that man a pulitzer!

    Nietzsche (none / 0) (#20)
    by hookfan on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:26:01 PM EST
    is interesting. And an enhancement might come from Camus, Sartre, and especially Simone De Beauvoir. ..
    Cool cats, man. We could do with more like them. . .

    Perhaps a paltry gesture... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lena on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 04:58:56 AM EST
    but I would love to sign a petition protesting this. Perhaps a letter is more in order though, especially for something this barbaric.

    Pethaps, after a number of years of (none / 0) (#6)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 06:55:20 AM EST
    our government arguing under both a Republican and a Democratic president that it has the right to do whatever it wants to whomever it wants in the name of national security and the global war on terror, this kind of degrading and invasive treatment of those held in US jails and prisons as a result of arrest, conviction or pre-trial detention is just the natural extension of that attitude and behavior.

    How did anyone ever expect that this wouldn't happen?

    This will go nowhere fast. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Chuck0 on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:08:30 AM EST
    American could care less what happens to the incarcerated. General belief is they deserve whatever happens to them. Why do you think nothing is done about prison rape? Cops love to threaten perps with being a cell "with Bubba." Everyone thinks it's a big joke. Americans aren't appalled because they just don't care.

    Legalized sexual assault... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:51:06 AM EST
    anyway you slice it.

    Maybe with women as the victims it will finally lead to some righteous outrage, shining a light up a man's spread-wide arse hasn't done it...but like Chuck said, in custody and outta mind...sad but true.

    wht's the yield? (none / 0) (#14)
    by diogenes on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 11:34:36 AM EST
    Perhaps they could do the searches on a random five percent of people; if the yield of contraband is zero, the frequency of the searches could be decreased.
    I'm sure that if women never, ever smuggled contraband that would only be found by these searches that it will come out in trial discovery.
    You can smuggle weapons as well as drugs, for you libertarian types.  

    if the male inmates (none / 0) (#22)
    by anarchohippypunk on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 12:12:50 AM EST
    who are uncircumcised and had their foreskins searched sent them in to PTSD mindset because of past sexual trauma and abuse, then yes, there's an issue there that needs to be  addressed. this isn't about someone not liking to be searched--it's standard with prisons and the inmates kno that. but introducing this gratuitous procedure does not add to anymore security for the prisons.

    many women are needlessly being submitted to potentially traumatic situations for them and no one is there to help them thru it. they are still suffering. regardless of whether they are prisoners, they are people and need respect and compassion like the rest of us.