“Biggest Bunch of Crap Ever”

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.

8 thoughts on ““Biggest Bunch of Crap Ever”

  1. CLH

    I doubt they’ll be successful in their lawsuit. I don’t even know any of the statutes involved, it doesn’t matter. It’s just going to be par for the course for them to dismiss the lawsuit. The only recourse for these nurses will be to then quit their jobs. I wonder how they’re going to manage to treat patients when doctors and nurses refuse to enter that facility? They can’t be compelled to, as far as I’m aware. Dear god, I hope that idiot doesn’t get re-elected. But he will. Because it always works out that way.

  2. SHG

    Not that you’re necesarily wrong, but whenever someone writes “I don’t even know any of the statutes involved,” it makes me wonder why they continue typing. It always strikes me as more sensible to opine from knowledge than ignorance, which is why one of my guiding principles is to make no person stupider for having read something at SJ.

  3. CLH

    Meh, educating myself would require effort. Simply writing random words that actually mean nothing is much easier. My compulsive need to contribute in meaningless ways is showing. I am, actually, aware of some of the case law that might be applied, and all of it tends to favor the Sherriff. What (I think) it will hinge on will be how the courts apply Neumeyer v. Board, and whether or not there was an element of compulsion, and if so, if a reasonable person might believe they were not free to refuse the search and leave the facility. So I did to a LITTLE homework, I just don’t really have the resources (yet) to do a complete job of it- I don’t start law school till this fall anyway. Thanks for the great blog by the way. I’ve been lurking around for a few years now. (And yes, I’m hoping flattery will mitigate how much SHG makes fun of my ignorance and stupidity, though the nurses winning their lawsuit probably has a higher chance of success).

  4. SHG

    I really don’t mean to make fun of you, and I hope it didn’t come off that way. It’s a pet peeve of mine, people opining with the preface “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies,” but go on nonetheless.  And as for the nurses chance, well, I agree, particularly about the lack of compulsion which is a rather obvious and unfortunate gap in the argument.

  5. Greg

    Best part is that if they’d tried to leave they’d almost certainly not be allowed to. Declining to submit to a search and attempting to leave is a little like trying to run away from an angry dog when you’re dealing with your average cop or prison guard or whatever

    No you see, the search was reasonable because when we tried to search her for contraband, she resisted, which gave rise to an inference that she had contraband that would be discovered from a search. Totally reasonable.

  6. NJV

    I just happened upon your blog and found this story posted last May. I am one of those 9 “nurses” who were strip searched at the Portsmouth Jail. Actually I am the Mental Health Professional of the group of 6 nurses and 2 kitchen workers. Our lawsuit is based on our civil rights being violated. The contention that there needs to be probable cause for the search. It’s a jail so we knew we could be padded down, wanded and purses searched but a strip search in an entire new arena. Well can’t say much more but we go to court on April 16th 2013 so We will see what happens. Yes, Watson is actually planning on running for reelection this year….So look for any news postings, the trial is expected to last 4 days in federal court in Norfolk, VA.

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