Judge asked to block strip searches at Wayne County Jail

Razor wire tops a wall at the old Wayne County Jail in downtown Detroit.

The lawyer representing three female Wayne County Jail inmates who allege they were forced to strip naked in front of men at the lockup is asking a federal judge to temporarily bar such searches.

Attorney Michael Dezsi filed a request Friday for a temporary restraining order and a hearing next week before U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow.

Dezsi filed a lawsuit this week against the Wayne County Jail and its officials, alleging that his clients, Jordan Sepulveda, Krista Anson and Nicole Thomas, were subjected to illegal strip searches.

During the strip searches, the 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, according to the lawsuit filed Monday..

 Sepulveda, Anson and Thomas, who have been inmates at the lockup in the past five months, said they were forced to undergo strip searches that were "unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional."

 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. The women, according to the lawsuits, were subjected to "degrading" remarks during the searches.

"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.

According to the complaint, a female commanding officer made derogatory, offensive and sometimes lurid remarks

Dezsi said he would like to see the searches stopped until there is a hearing on the issue.

"This is about human decency," he said Friday. He said he's not saying the jail cannot conduct searches but that they have to be done in a dignified manner.

Dezsi said a similar lawsuit was filed by a former female inmate in 2012 but it was dismissed on "procedural grounds.


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