So this happened.
A woman visiting an inmate at a privately run Tennessee prison has filed a suit against a number of guards who made her undergo a strip-search to prove she was actually menstruating.
The woman, who was carrying a menstrual pad in her pocket, told the guards she would show them the used pad or leave the extra one behind, but guards insisted her genitals be inspected by a female authority, the complaint says.
The visitor, who filed the suit under the pseudonym Jane Doe, says she asked the guard what she should do. “What do you think? Show me!” the guard is quoted as saying in the suit. The guard then “visually inspected [her] exposed genitalia and looked upon her vaginal area” until she was satisfied that the woman was indeed menstruating.
Guards told the woman the search was standard procedure, although the private company that runs the prison (Corrections Corporation of America) does not have a policy specifically framed around feminine sanitary products.
Jane’s case is no doubt disturbing and invasive, but as Think Progress points out, these cases aren’t as rare as we’d like to think.
“…in the case of Jane Doe, people visiting inmates often have to endure humiliating searches and interrogations. Prison officials are also allowed to randomly search visitors’ vehicles in many states. California recently stepped up visitor searches with some of the most draconian screening rules in the country, requiring airport security style scanners, drug-sniffing dogs, hand swabs, and strip searches in some cases. Refusing a strip search can get a visitor permanently banned from the prison. It’s also not uncommon for guards to arrest visitors if they suspect them of smuggling or if they are wanted on outstanding warrants (usually for minor offenses like missing a court appearance or probation appointment).
Jane’s attorney, Tricia Herzfeld, says her client wasn’t given the option of refusing the search. Instead she, like many who refuse strip searches, was told she’d be banned from visiting the facility if she declined.
“She offered to leave. She also offered to cut the visit short. She offered to change her pad. She offered all sorts of things and nobody at the facility responded to her offers.”
The woman is seeking emotional and punitive damages, as well as an injunction putting an end to humiliating searches like the one she endured.
SOURCE: Think Progress, Nashville Public Radio | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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