Sheriff Bill Watson has a contraband problem in his jail in Portsmouth, Virginia. Why, under his watchful eyes, he had such a problem, isn’t exactly clear, given that his adopted tough on contraband position didn’t do him much good before. But one it was a gaggle of nurses coming into his jail to care for the health of prisoners. Watson appreciated the strictest need possible for thoroughness.
Via Fox 8 News :
Nine female healthcare contractors providing healthcare services to inmates at the Portsmouth City Jail claimed that when they arrived at work they were sent with a female guard to a private room.
“They were told to completely remove their clothing, they were forced to bend over and cough while jail officials looked in their bodily cavities,” said ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg.
These were contracted nurses, not misdemeanant or people arrested for unpaid parking tickets that were actually paid. You know, the sort of people who deserve a good body cavity search. Sheriff Watson, whose nickname around Portsmouth is Mr. Sensitivity, was unimpressed. When he learned he was being sued for the searches, he responded:
“I thought it was the biggest bunch of crap I’d ever heard in my life,” said Watson.
The Sheriff contends he has every right to strip search anyone coming in to his jail. He emphasized that includes his owns deputy. He says security is his primary concern and he had been having problems with contraband getting in to the jail.
Anyone? Lawyers meeting with their clients, for example? Though a defendant may have a constitutional right to counsel, the Constitution says nothing about the right of a lawyer to meet with his client with his clothes on, or not to undergo a myopic inspection as part of the entrance protocol. And if Sheriff Watson was really intend on being thorough, there is always the colonoscopy, just in case. You never know what a lawyer could be hiding in there.
“The nurses need to understand they don’t run the jail, we run the jail and they have the option to be searched or leave,” said Watson.
Watson believes the searches are part of his efforts to ensure inmate safety.
“The world’s gotten so politically correct you can’t do your job,” he said.
One might muse that the good Sheriff could be asked the same question if he happens to appear in an emergency room in extremis, and a nurse orders him to squat and spread before showing him any concern. While he may own the guns in the jail, the nurses have the juice in the ER. I wonder whether Sheriff Watson understands that it works both ways?
Certainly, one has to wonder why the nurses didn’t turn on their heels and walk out of Sheriff Watson’s domain. Perhaps they felt they had no option, since the screws had guns and gave them order. Maybe they were so dedicated to the health of prisoners they felt morally bound to endure the search lest the inmates’ health suffer. It could even be as simple as they needed the money. Or maybe there were just foolish.
At a time when employer’s demanding Facebook passwords causes outrage, it seems almost quaint in comparison to a body cavity search. This hardly seems to fall under the facile rubric of political correctness. The notion that Sheriff’s keep their eyes (and all other body parts) out of nurses’ orifices without a damn good reason.
The alternative for healthcare professionals who are needed to tend to the care of prisoners is to tell nice old sheriff’s like Watson to enjoy his own body cavity search, and refuse to suffer the indignity. But then, that doesn’t do much to help the prisoner in need of medical attention. Should they refuse to enter as long as Watson continues to have his head firmly implanted in the search zone and allow inmates to suffer, perhaps die, for lack of medical care?
The most absurd part of Watson’s thinking, and I use that word in its broadest sense, is that there is an easy alternative means to protect against the introduction of contraband. After a prisoner is seen by a nurse, and before they re-enter general population, search the prisoner. It’s not that I’m advocating this be done, or that prisoners should be needlessly search and forced to undergo the indignity of a body cavity search in order to obtain health care, but to note the stupidity of Watson’s position.
Relative to the nurse, the prisoner is more rationally subject to search. That’s comparative, of course, rather than absolute. There is just no sound reason to engage in any of this, absent a specific reason to believe that an individual has secreted contraband on his person. As far as Watson’s contraband problems are concerned, there is an even better solution available to him since the primary source of unlawful stuff coming into a jail isn nurses’ tushies.
The Sheriff contends he has every right to strip search anyone coming in to his jail. He emphasized that includes his owns deputy.
Now he’s on to something. Maybe Sheriff Watson will let us know how that turns out. And when it’s his turn to squat and cough, I’m sure there will be no shortage of volunteers to do the job.