One rape victim alleges she was ordered to squat on the floor while naked from the waist down with male officers waiting outside her cell. She says she was so traumatised afterwards that she cut herself with a broken coffee jar. BuzzFeed News understands that she is one of two prisoners whose version of events Sodexo disputes in their entirety. BuzzFeed News has been given similar accounts from other prisoners. A survivor of child rape described in a sworn witness statement being told to take her knickers off while on her period during a routine cell inspection, despite there being no intelligence that she was hiding anything under her clothes.
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She had recently had a psychotic breakdown and says when she refused she was put on report and segregated. In court documents seen by BuzzFeed News, Sodexo admitted that the search was unlawful because officers wrongly believed that a full strip search was required as part of the mandatory drug testing procedure. Sodexo points out that the women have withdrawn the part of their human rights claim relating to the right to be free from degrading or inhuman treatment.
The women say they want a swift conclusion to the case on the areas Sodexo has conceded and they are pursuing their claims for damages for the unlawful searches.
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But they still stand by their accounts of what happened. Strip searches are only legal if there are specific grounds to suspect contraband is hidden beneath underwear and if a pat-down has been carried out first. Prisoners say it was routine for searches to go straight to a full-body check in Bronzefield, before any pat-down happened.
Some were strip-searched as part of a routine drugs test, before they had even undergone the testing and when there was no intelligence that they were carrying drugs that day. Prison officers are supposed to consider the risk to vulnerable prisoners, such as those with mental health problems, before conducting a full search. Yet seven of the eight women who brought a legal claim against Sodexo have a history of mental health problems, including self-harming. Prisoners say they were strip-searched routinely before mandatory drugs tests, when there was no evidence to support a full-body check.
Nothing was found in these humiliating searches, though in some cases drugs were later detected in urine when the tests were done afterwards. The company says that of the eight prisoners who brought legal proceedings, four were searched as part of mandatory drug testing and two were searched because of intelligence reports that they were in possession of illicit items. It disputes the remaining two claims.
Prison Strip Search is Sexually Abusive | American Civil Liberties Union
The problem may also extend to other UK prisons, according to a solicitor acting in the Bronzefield case, who says he has met women elsewhere in the country who have had similar experiences. The category A prison also holds young offenders. Sodexo declined to comment on whether teenagers in the young offender wing were also affected by the unlawful policy. Sodexo insisted that the allegations relate only to those eight women who brought legal complaints and said it was untrue that thousands had been subjected to unlawful searches.
As other prisons have not been routinely stripping women, there is no security reason to inflict such degrading and cruel treatment on women. Laura, 51, still gets nightmares about the day in March last year when she says prison officers made her squat naked from the waist down in her cell, with male officers outside. She says the male officer who saw it thought she was hiding something, and locked her in the laundry room. A few minutes later she remembers being taken up to her room to be strip-searched by a female officer with him and a more senior male officer in tow.
The bolt was on but the door was unlocked, which made a big gap I took my top off and she went through my bra and everything and then asked me to put it back on. She went through all my hair. I just wanted it out of the way. I had nothing on me and I wanted it over with.
Female inmates forced to expose genitals in ‘training exercise.’ It was legal, court rules.
In the years before a series of affrays and possession of a firearm landed her in Bronzefield, Laura says she was raped at home by a family acquaintance and attacked by an abusive partner who fractured her face in 17 places. She was diagnosed with PTSD in and says the intrusive searching at Bronzefield made her condition worse. I have never self-harmed till the time I was searched in my cell.
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I cut my arm with a broken coffee jar. I was so depressed and couldn't find any release but to physically hurt myself. She also says that when she was strip-searched at MCI-Norfolk, male guards forced her to stand, cuffed and naked, for 30 minutes in front of the open door to her cell, exposing her body to at least a dozen male prisoners who gawked at her and mocked her breasts. She says that prison officials, by refusing to house her with women inmates, are discriminating against her because she is transgender, in violation of her constitutional right to equal protection.
Prison officials say they have already made reasonable accommodations for her at MCI-Norfolk and are concerned she would disrupt the prison climate if she were housed with female inmates. At a hearing last week , Richard C. Before and after seeing visitors, after going to court, and during random drug tests. Sometimes prisoners had to bend over and part their buttocks. Tracey says some women choose to have box visits separated from visitors by glass rather than contact visits, to avoid having to be strip searched twice, before and after the visit.
With a look of horror on her face, Tracey recounts one drug test where she had to strip and urinate into a plastic cup. At the time she was menstruating. I believe strip searches are a form of state-sanctioned sexual violence," she said. Routine strip searches - which require a prisoner to strip in front of two guards - traumatise vulnerable women, are ineffective and should be banned, according to a new report from the Human Rights Law Centre. There are thousands of routine strip searches conducted on female prisoners in Victoria every year, a population with a disproportionately high experience of family violence and sexual abuse, it finds.
The report reviewed six months of recent Victorian strip search register entries and found in more than strip searches, only six items were found: four tobacco or nicotine products, a "small quantity of gum" and an unidentified object.