The Portland Press Herald’s Scott Dolan reported today that some southern Maine lawyers are expressing outrage after officials at the Cumberland County Jail began asking women defense attorneys to take off their underwire bras before entering the facility to see their clients.
The underwire bras reportedly have been setting off the jail’s metal detector, and Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce told Dolan the facility’s metal detector policy was made more stringent in recent months.
University of New England social work students accessing the jail to work with inmates last year were reportedly asked not to wear — or remove — underwire bras.
The sheriff said the detector has no way of differentiating between “underwire bras and someone bringing in a gun,” and added that the jail administrator previously worked at a corrective institution in Massachusetts where an attorney did attempt to bring in a gun.
Attorney Amy Fairfield told the Press Herald she was turned away from the jail last week after she refused to remove her bra.
“They are just inviting a lawsuit,” Fairfield told Dolan. “It’s discriminatory, it’s harassing and it’s a constitutional issue.”
Indeed, in 2011, two women — a mother and daughter attempting to visit an inmate who was a family member — reportedly sued a Maryland jail after being asked to take off their underwire bras for the same reason.
Defense attorney Sarah Churchill said she went to the Cumberland County Jail wearing an underwire bra Friday to see if she’d be turned away, but hers didn’t set off the metal detector.
“The TSA doesn’t ask me to take my bra off,” Churchill told the Press Herald. “The feds don’t ask me to take my bra off, but the Cumberland County Jail thinks it’s appropriate? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Another attorney argued the jail could simply run a metal detecting wand over the women attempting to enter the facility to isolate the location of the metal and determine if it’s in the bra.
Fairfield said she complained about the issue to Joyce and Justice Roland Cole, the chief judge of the Maine Superior Court.
Joyce told Dolan he’ll review the policy, but said it was implemented months ago and never previously caused any outcry.