Sheriff in court after ordering workers strip searched at jail

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by Karen Hopkins, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 6:01 PM

PORTSMOUTH-- A Portsmouth Sheriff was on trial Wednesday for allegedly making women who worked at the jail take off all their clothes and be searched for drugs or contraband.

Nine women who were contract workers for Correct Care Solutions or Aramark Correctional Facility Food Service are suing Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson and four deputies for "demeaning and degrading" searches.

The lawsuit says Sheriff Bill Watson ordered the searches in late April 2011 as part of an ongoing investigation of drugs being brought into the jail.

In court Wednesday one contractor said she was told she would lose her security clearance and job if she didn't do the strip search. "If I wanted to feed my family I had to take of my clothes," she testified.

Another woman said she doesn't want anyone else to have to deal with a strip search and she admitted to bringing in her cell phone which was breaking contraband rules.

Watson declined to comment Wednesday but told 13News last April, "They were not forced to do anything. When you enter the jail, there's signs on every entrance door that comes into the jail when you pass by this door, you're subject to search. They see that sign every day," Watson said.

The contractors claim they didn't see the sign at the jail saying all workers are subject to being searched. However they argue a pat down search is appropriate and a strip search goes too far.

The workers are seeking monetary damages and a court order preventing searches like that in the future.

No drugs were ever found on the workers.

 

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