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.
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