Wayne County sued over strip searches of female inmates

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon

Three female inmates sued the Wayne County Jail and its officials this week, saying they were forced to strip naked in front of male guards, officers, other jail employees and male inmates during body searches.

Jordan Sepulveda, Krista Anson and Nicole Thomas, who have been inmates at the lockup in the past five months said they were subjected to strip searches inside the jail that were "unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional."

In the lawsuit, filed individually and also on behalf of other female inmates, the women's attorney Michael Dezsi also contends "hundreds" of women held at the jail were forced to to strip naked in common areas in view of male officers as well as other inmates.

"During such strip searches, (Sepulveda, Anson and Thomas) and hundreds of other female inmates, were forced to bend over ... under the pretense of searching for contraband," according to the lawsuits.

The complaint also alleges that strip searches were conducted even during female inmates' menstrual cycles, "which would often result in discharges of body fluid in common areas of the jail." Female inmates alleged they would see and hear male officers laughing and mocking them as they were forced to stand naked and expose themselves during mass strip searches..

The female inmates allege they were subjected to comments about their breast sizes, their sexual orientation and private parts.

The mass searches, conducted when the female inmates were being taken to court proceedings or for medical examination, violated the women's Fourth Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.

"Defendants’ acts of forcibly exposing Plaintiffs to be seen naked by other inmates in the absence of any legitimate penological interest by Defendants to conduct such group strip searches constituted an unreasonable invasion of privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment," the lawsuit reads.

The spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Pageant Atterberry, said the allegations about the treatment of female inmates "are still under investigation and we can't comment during that process."


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