The lawyers all signed an open letter Thursday, protesting the Jackson County Detention Center’s policy of denying admission to female attorneys if their bras trigger the metal detector at the jail entrance.
“Bras with metal clasps or underwire support (most every bra) set these detectors off,” the attorneys write in the letter, addressed to the Jackson County sheriff, corrections department director and other officials. “Women are then required to either remove their bras or be denied entrance.
“For female attorneys,” the letter continues, “that means the choice is to remove their bras or not see their clients. The net effect of these newly implemented measures is that female attorneys are being denied meaningful access to their clients in violation of their clients’ constitutional right to counsel.”
“For female attorneys … the choice is to remove their bras or not see their clients.”
The policy is part of what the lawyers describe as a “TSA airport-type high-security screening procedure” that recently took effect at the jail, in which people entering the jail are required to have their shoes, belts, briefcases and other items X-rayed before entering.
“We do not believe this is an unreasonable procedure,” the attorneys write, but as it applies to bras, they regard the new requirement as discriminatory against women.
“It is undeniable that many female members of our group feel humiliated and angry at the prospect of having to get their undergarments cleared before being allowed to do their jobs,” the letter says.
In addition, the letter states, “The male attorneys in our group see our female counterparts as equals and feel this security protocol singles them out for disparate treatment and does not afford them the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Meanwhile, a county legislator has accused the sheriff, who sets the jail policies, of seeking retaliation against the critics, the Kansas City Star reported.
Crystal Williams alleged in a statement that Sheriff Darryl Forte had been using Sunshine Law requests in a bid to gain access to emails that attorneys had sent to her about their jail concerns.
“It’s sad when a politician uses intimidation tactics toward people with valid concerns about a sexist policy,” Williams wrote in her statement, according to the Star. “This sure looks like someone seeking retaliation. Just fix the damned problem.”
“It’s sad when a politician uses intimidation tactics toward people with valid concerns about a sexist policy.”
For his part, the sheriff blasted Williams’ objections to allowing him to view the emails she’d received from attorneys.
“Elected officials should welcome and encourage transparency, and not be offended by requests,” Forte wrote to the Star. “Community awareness about the affairs of Jackson County government must be a goal of elected officials.”
The sheriff also claimed on Twitter on Monday that it was “misinformation” that women had been required to remove their underwire bras to gain entry to the jail.
“Misinformation has been communicated about the screening process at the JCDC,” the sheriff wrote. “Everyone is required to pass through a metal detector. No one has been asked to take off underwire bras. We will continue to keep our staff and inmates safe from harm.”
But the sheriff left open the possibility that the jail policy would be adjusted in the future.
“Evaluation of policies and procedures related to the detention center is ongoing,” the sheriff wrote, according to the Star. “We desire to continue to provide the best possible service with minimal inconvenience while maintaining high safety standards. Safety and security is of paramount importance to me.”
But the defense attorneys say they will stage a protest at noon Wednesday at the jail if no changes are made by then, attorney John Picerno told the newspaper.
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