In late January, a federal lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America, the mammoth private prison company, alleged that a prison visitor was forced to disrobe and "prove" she was menstruating by letting a female guard look at her genitals. Two more women have now joined the suit, saying they too were stripped and humiliated for being on their periods.
As the Nashville Scene was first to report, two more women—identified in court documents as Jane Does #2 and #3—have joined the suit against the warden and several security officers at South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee. According to court documents, Jane Doe 2, a grandmother, arrived at SCCF in May 204 to visit an inmate. She says she had a sealed sanitary napkin in her pocket, which she put into a tray at the security checkpoint, along with her ID and keys. A guard whose last name was Gonzales, she says, pointed at the pad and said, "You can't take that in there" and "You have to change in front of us." Like the first plaintiff in the suit, she says she was ordered into a bathroom and made to show her genitals to a female guard, as well as show the guard her bloodied pad.
Jane Doe 3 says she tried to enter the prison with two wrapped tampons, which also presented a problem. She says two guards—Gonzales and a woman whose name she didn't know—went into a brief huddle upon seeing the tampons, then told her that a "new policy" prevented her from bringing them in. She was told she'd have to go into the restroom, take out her tampon, and replaced it with a "CCA-approved" pad. The female guard, she says, watched as she removed the tampon, then demanded to see it. She was forced to squat and show the guard her genitals twice before she was allowed to put on the new, prison-approved pad and leave the bathroom. From the complaint:
Defendant Roe #1 entered the restroom and required Plaintiff to change the pad in her presence. 115. Defendant Roe #1 also watched Plaintiff as she urinated. After Plaintiff changed her pad but before leaving the restroom, Defendant Jane Roe insisted she must inspect Plaintiff's vulva once more. Defendant Jane Roe #1 positioned herself so that her head was about six inches from Plaintiff's bleeding vulva. Plaintiff did not feel free to leave.
On a second visit, the same woman says she was forced to repeat the whole humiliating procedure again—this time while her three young children looked on. After the search, she alleges, one of her children asked, ""What did they do, mommy? They looked under my mommy's legs!"
The plaintiffs point out that, according to state Department of Corrections policies, visitors should only be required to remove their feminine hygiene products in front of guards "if there exists individualized reasonable suspicion to prove that contraband is being brought in." None of the women say they were ever told the guards specifically suspected them of smuggling contraband, and that while men are biologically capable of "concealing" contraband in their bodies too, men aren't routinely forced by the SCCF staff to show their genitals.
There are security procedures, and then there are humiliating, invasive and frankly gross civil rights violations. The plaintiffs are requesting a trial by jury and that the prison be enjoined from conducting these period-related "searches."
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