Prison Guards Who Forced Menstruating Visitor To Expose Vaginal and Anal Cavities Are Protected by Qualified Immunity
In July of 2016, Angela Calloway arrived at the Augusta Correctional Center in Craigsville, Virginia, to visit with an inmate, Travis Talbert. She left soon after, having been told to remove her clothes and tampon so prison guards could inspect her vaginal and anal cavities for contraband.
Their search yielded no drugs, and Calloway has not returned to the prison since.
A federal court ruled last week that the guards involved in that invasive search did not violate the Fourth Amendment, simultaneously upholding a lower court ruling that awarded qualified immunity to the government employees. Calloway will thus not be permitted to sue over the incident.
“[T]he standard under the Fourth Amendment for conducting a strip search of a prison visitor—an exceedingly personal invasion of privacy—is whether prison officials have a reasonable suspicion” to believe such a search is necessary, writes Judge Paul V. Niemeyer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In Calloway’s case, that included the following: an unidentified inmate said two days prior that Talbert was “moving” contraband; a guard saw Calloway briefly touch her pants; that same guard had twice previously identified contraband smugglers.
After briefly meeting with Talbert in the visitation room, Calloway was removed by the guards and given the news. One officer “indicated that if Calloway did not consent to a strip search, she would not be permitted to come back to the prison,” notes Niemeyer. According to Calloway, she was “bawling crying and didn’t understand what was going on.”
Upon entering the bathroom, Calloway was told to remove her clothes and “lift her arms and breasts, open her mouth
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