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Female inmates sue Wayne County Jail over "degrading" alleged strip searches

prison bars

Three female inmates are suing the Wayne County Jail over what they call embarrassing, humiliating, and degrading alleged strip search practices.

The inmates say jail guards often conducted mass strip searches in common areas of the jail, in full view of male guards and other inmates.

The searches were ostensibly to look for contraband. But the women say they was no legitimate reason for the searches, other than to embarrass and degrade them.

“During strip searches, Plaintiffs, and hundreds of other female inmates were made to strip down naked in common areas of the Wayne County Jail and in view of male officers as well as other inmates,” the plaintiffs write in the complaint of their federal lawsuit.

“During such strip searches, Plaintiffs, and hundreds of other female inmates, were forced to bend over and spread their vaginal parts and anus under the pretense of searching for contraband. Defendants conducted these unreasonable and unconstitutional strip searches even if the female inmates were experiencing menstrual cycles, which would often result in menstrual discharges in the common areas of the jail during these en masse strip searches.”

The lawsuit claims the women could hear male corrections officers laughing and mocking them as the searches went on, while a female corrections officer conducting the searches would make “degrading, humiliating, and sexually exploitive” comments about their bodies.

The lawsuit also claims the female inmates “were also routinely, forcibly exposed to male deputies who often worked in the stations adjacent to the female inmates’ housing unit.”

“Plaintiffs and other female inmates were often degraded, humiliated, and subjected to inhumane and cruel treatment as described herein for no legitimate penological interest but rather to embarrass, humiliate, and degrade them,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit seeks class action status, and a stop to the alleged mass strip searches. It’s related to a prior lawsuit challenging strip search practices in the Wayne County Jail, but in this case the plaintiffs are currently incarcerated.

A spokesperson for Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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