Court rules it is legal for female inmates to be strip searched in front of male officers as ‘training exercise’

In putting an end to an eight year old battle, the US Court of Appeal rules that is was legal for guards to strip female inmates naked and ask them to remove their tampons and pads, in front of male guards as a part of exercises for new cadets.

Court rules it is legal for female inmates to be strip searched in front of male officers as training exercise

The action was brought against Lincoln Correctional facility in Illinois over a controversial strip search of 200 female inmates at the facility in 2011. During this incident, the women were taken to a parlor in the prison, where they were stripped naked and asked to expose their cavities and had derogatory comments about their bodies and odors passed at them by the female officers, as a part of the training exercise that was visible to male and female officers as well as civilians in the gym across the parlor.

Earlier this week, the Court in a 2-1 ruling, held that the search was not a violation of the inmates’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy as it conducted only through visual means. However, District Judge John Z. Lee, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, dissented with the argument that “This mass strip search of female inmates was conducted solely for training purposes, but the training was not strictly necessary, as most cadets graduated without it. Surely a ‘training’ justification need not be treated with the same level of deference as a search conducted due to concerns over smuggled weapons or other contraband?” He went on to say that rationales like these fell between legitimate security concerns and unjustified harassment, suggesting at the continuous need of Fourth Amendment Rights, even in prisons.

In stark contrast of this ruling, Los Angeles County will be paying $53 million to settle the lawsuit filed in 2010 by former inmates against the invasive group searches. The searches during intake inspections at the Sheriff’s Department’s Century Regional Detention Facility caused the women trauma and humiliation, the lawsuit said. Many of the examinations occurred at night in a bus garage that was without heaters until 2014. The County, however, did not admit to wrongdoing and justified that the settlement was reached to avoid further legal costs.

Since the lawsuit was filed against Lynwood facility, the jail has added privacy curtains and body scanners while conducting searches.Barry Litt, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he hopes the settlement’s impact will be “a complete transformation of the jail’s culture with a considered, gender responsive approach.”

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