A new lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison management company in the U.S., alleges that a female visitor was strip-searched and humiliated at a prison in Clifton, Tennessee. The woman says during her security screening she had to "prove" she was on her period by allowing a female guard to inspect her vagina.
In the lawsuit, which we saw at Think Progress, the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, says she was visiting an inmate at South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton on April 20, 2014. She was going through the security line on her way in to the prison when a security guard spotted a sanitary napkin protruding from her pocket. A male guard asked what it was, and the woman took it out of her pocket and showed it to them. She was told she'd have to get a "CCA-approved" pad instead.
According to her complaint, which the Nashville Scene has uploaded in full here, the male guard, with another male guard standing beside him, then told her, "But I'll have to make sure you are — I'll have to make sure you are actually —"
The woman says she asked if the guards were going to make her prove she was menstruating. One, she says, responded, "We'll have to see."
After being isolated in a screening area, Jane Doe says she was given a pat-down. She grew fearful that she was going to have to provide this "proof" of her period next and asked the guards what particular prison rule gave them the ability to demand such a thing. Doe says she didn't receive an answer. She alleges that she offered to show them her used pad, or urinate in the toilet without flushing and show them her menstrual blood in the bowl. They refused and called for a female guard, who ordered her into a restroom and demanded, "Show me!"
Doe says the guard squatted at the level of her pelvic area and looked at her until she was satisfied that she was menstruating. She was then allowed to continue with her visit. Doe also says that she called the facility's chief of security, who told her that an "inspection" of that kind was allowed.
The woman's attorney tells Nashville Public Radio it's unacceptable that she wasn't offered an alternative to being forced to submit to such an inspection, even if that alternative meant leaving the facility. A CCA spokesperson told the station he couldn't address the specifics of the incident since the complaint is anonymous, but that they're taking it "extremely seriously."
Jane Doe is suing for assault, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things. Besides asking for damages, she's asking for the court to order the prison to only conduct strip searches and body cavity inspections in compliance with the law.
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