DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union wants the Michigan Department of Corrections to ban an invasive type of strip search that the group says humiliates female prisoners.
The ACLU says women are forced to search expose themselves in view of other prisoners while a female guard checks to see whether they’re concealing contraband, according to a report by The Detroit Free Press.
The ACLU believes Michigan’s is the only prison system in the nation to routinely use such searches as a matter of policy and claims the vaginal strip searches are designed to humiliate and degrade the women.
Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the warden at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Washtenaw County’s Pittsfield Township ended the searches in December after concluding they weren’t finding contraband at the state’s only female correctional facility.
“Corrections officers didn’t think it was necessary, prisoners felt it was an irritant, the prison psychiatric staff thought it was a stressor and, in nearly two years, it didn’t find any contraband,” Marlan told the Free Press.
The ACLU, however, said it believes the searches are being used based on complaints from prisoners. The searches can be especially traumatic because many female prisoners are victims of sexual assault, the ACLU said.
“There are no words in the human vocabulary that can express how I felt as I was forced to strip down butt naked in front of other women,” the prisoner wrote to the ACLU. “I felt as I was being raped all over again, like I had been raped in the streets.
“It broke my self-esteem down so low because I have these ugly scars all over my body from the beatings that I suffered in the streets from different men when I was getting high off drugs,” she said.
Several prisoners say they have forgone family visits to avoid the searches, and those who refuse to cooperate can be forced to submit or be put in solitary confinement, the ACLU said.
The ACLU wants the practice banned by state prison policy. The organization, however, said it does not object to the search if prison staffers have reason to believe a female prisoner is concealing contraband.
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