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Jail Security Gone Wrong

Take your bra off if you want to visit your client. That was the order to at least two female attorneys who went to visit their clients in a Cumberland County Jail in Maine. The attorneys refused to remove their bras and left the jail. Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said it was important to prohibit breaches in jail security. Jail security was tightened after several security breaches. These breaches included drug smuggling and inmates leaving maximum security cells for sexual trysts.  Security Checkpoint

However, Sheriff Joyce did admit jail staff did go a little too far when ordering the female attorneys to remove their bras. The rule was that no individual entering the jail could set off the jail metal detectors. It was never jail security policy to prohibit attorneys from speaking with their clients.

The sheriff did apologize to the attorneys. It was later discovered that at least 20 other female attorneys complained about having to remove their bras before going through the metal detector in the same jail.

What happened to the female attorneys raises issues for both them and their clients. Did the county jail violate the attorneys’ 14TH Amendment of equal protection? Was there a violation of defendant’s rights to counsel?

Male Attorneys Weren’t Ordered to Remove an Article of Clothing

The 14TH Amendment contains many clauses focused on the rights of citizens in relation to both the local and state governments. The 14TH Amendment also includes the equal protection clause. The clause prevents an individual from being discriminated against because of characteristics such as disability, nationality, or sex.

Sex discrimination is treating a class of people differently based on their gender. The case that struck down sex discrimination pertaining to women is Reed v. Reed. It made an Idaho law, which automatically gave a mandatory preference to men over women when there was two individuals relatives competing to become an administrator over an estate, illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law because it gave preference to men over women. The same can be said for what happened at the Cumberland County Jail.

Jail security wanted to prevent illegal activities such as drug smuggling and inmate escapes. That’s fine. The problem is how the staffers went about trying to prevent security breaches. They singled out female attorneys by telling them to remove their bras prior to entering the metal detector.

The female attorneys are supposed to be treated like their male counterparts by the county jail when they went into security. Male attorneys weren’t asked to remove an article of clothing prior to entering the county jail. They were allowed to go through the metal detectors and visit with their clients.

The fact that female attorneys were singled out goes against the 14TH Amendment. Requesting the women remove their bras violated the equal protection clause. The country jail created an environment where female attorneys were treated unfairly. If they didn’t remove their bras, they couldn’t visit their clients. By treating the women differently for no important reason, they were no longer equal to male attorneys who didn’t have to remove any article of clothing.

Clear Case of Prohibiting Attorney-Client Interaction

Criminal defendants have many constitutional rights. You may already know many of them like the right to:

  • Remain silent
  • Have a jury trial
  • Confront witnesses
  • Have a speedy trial

A defendant also has a right to legal representation. This means the defendant must also have access to his attorney. By requiring female attorneys remove their bras to enter the jail, the county jail violated the defendant’s rights. On those days, defendants with female attorneys weren’t allowed to meet with their lawyers or talk about defense strategy. It was possible that the jail staff could have delayed or endangered their cases.

You may think it one day not meeting with an attorney doesn’t matter. It does. Any time a defendant does access to his attorney, rights are violated. In addition, think about the attorney. Attorneys must prove adequate representation to clients. That legal representation shouldn’t be hindered by whether the attorney wears a bra or not.

The Cumberland County Jail in Maine Clearly Violated Constitutional Rights

Maybe you think the county jail violated inmates’ rights more than the female attorneys’ rights. Maybe you think the county jail had to do whatever it had to do to prevent inmate escapes and drug smuggling. Whatever side of the issue you’re on, you have to agree with one thing. The Cumberland County Jail was clearly wrong. It violated the Constitutional rights of female attorneys and their clients.

Taelonnda Sewell


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