Ask anyone who has ever had the experience and they will tell you that a strip search is degrading and inhumane. Sadly it is commonplace in prisons. Whenever inmates come in contact with visitors, they are strip searched before they return to their cells.
One disturbing case of a woman visiting an inmate at a privately-run prison in Tennessee appears to be more of a personal violation than most.
After she passed through necessary security checkpoints, a guard noticed something sticking out of her pocket. When she was asked what it was, she informed him that it was a sanitary napkin; she was menstruating. A female guard was summoned. She told the male guard that she would gladly leave the prison, or leave the pad behind, or even show the guard her used pad. She was informed that if she did not comply with the strip search, she would never be allowed to visit the prison again.
The woman was told to go into a restroom and take down her pants and underwear. She was forced to allow the female guard to ‘inspect her genitalia.’
She has filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of the fourth amendment.
A spokesman for the Corrections Corporation of America claimed that the guards were acting in accordance with the company’s rules and regulations intended to keep contraband from entering the facility and insure safety for all concerned.
The Tennessee Department of Corrections has yet to review the case, but stated that in rare circumstances a female visitor could be required to change a feminine hygiene product in front of a female guard. A former Commissioner of facilities in New York City stated that the circumstances in Tennessee were highly unusual.
The ACLU, along with other civil and human rights organizations are insisting that the Michigan State Department of Corrections immediately cease their standard procedure of degrading ‘strip and body cavity searches.’ They demand that the practice of forcing women inmates to take off all of their clothing and spread open their butt cheeks and vagina, allowing guards to look inside, be ceased immediately.
Correctional officers do not deviate from the policy. The age of the female inmate, or the offense for which she became incarcerated has no bearing regarding strip searches and the examination of body cavities.
One woman explained that her embarrassment was enhanced by the fact that she had a mastectomy and standing naked with a single breast, waiting for her turn to be examined was unbearable.
For many older inmates, years of dignity are stripped away along with their clothing.
The Patriot Act has allowed previously unheard of personal violations. Law enforcement along with the government have used a law intended to prevent a terrorist attack to seize personal items and cash often without recourse; and our federal government has used its provisions to spy on ordinary citizens.
Now female inmates and female visitors are receiving treatment not dissimilar to the way women were treated in Nazi prisoner of war camps.
Our government is literally worthless. It is important that the American people fight for their Constitutional rights, including the reinstatement of the fourth amendment.
By James Turnage