Many women in the U.S. who visit their spouses and relatives in prisons are being subjected to humiliating treatment by officers at those prisons through strip-searches and hours-long detention at times over objecting to the violation of their privacy, a recent investigation by the Intercept revealed Tuesday.
Jasmine Quattlebaum, a woman who was harassed by a female officer at a New York prison when she was going to visit her fiance in 2015, recounted her story to the Intercept, describing how she was put in prison for eight hours before being charged, ironically, for obstructing government administration and harassment.
After being patted around her bra and upper body, Quattlebaum was asked to unbutton her pants and put her hands up again. “Once I put my hands back up, she pulled my panties out, takes her two fingers, and just jams it in between my crotch,” she told the website referring to the officer at the Anna M. Kross Center.
“My reaction — I slapped her hand away a little bit, like, where’s the privacy?” Quattlebaum had been visiting her partner at the prison every week but said that she had not experienced such treatment before.
But the officer was not deterred by her reaction and wanted to continue the humiliating search process, which is against the strip-search codes of the New York City department of correction regarding prison visitors.
The woman said that the officer “tried to pull both of my hands together with one hand, and she tried to still put her fingers into my crotch” with the other. She continued resisting until the officer alleged Quattlebaum had “put her hands” on her and should be arrested, the report said.
Not only was she put in prison for eight hours and later charged with obstruction, but she was also banned from seeing her fiance for six months.
“It’s just been very hectic because I was going to see my children’s father, my fiance, and I’m basically the only person he has to come see him, and (I bring) his children to come see him,” she told the Intercept.
“I was scared. My whole life was trying to figure out what was going on. Am I going to be taken away from my kids? Because I’m a single mom and I have three children. It was just very stressful.”
But Quattlebaum’s case is far from being an isolated one. The investigation by the Intercept and New York’s WNYC radio station found that many complaints have been filed against misconduct in strip-searches by correction officers in the state.
The report said the complaints ranged from officers making visitors take off their clothes to others penetrating their body cavities. The New York protocol for visitors at prisons clearly states that “the visitor may be required to remove his/her outer garments, coat, hat shoes and no other items.”
The Intercept said the U.S. Department of Correction prohibits officers “from conducting more invasive strip-searches and cavity searches on visitors to the city’s jails, the majority of whom are women, many accompanied by children, coming to see incarcerated loved ones.”
The outlet said that at least 27 women are currently in the process of suing the department over invasive strip-searches.