CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) – Four people who spent time at the county jail in Salem, New Jersey, claim in a federal class action that their genitals were routinely exposed during their stays because they were unnecessarily strip-searched or classified as suicidal.
The March 6 complaint says Salem County routinely classifies detainees as suicidal “for no apparent reason.”
When this happens, the detainee is given what the complaint calls a “turtle suit,” held together with Velcro instead of zippers, buttons, belts or buckles.
But the onetime detainees suing Salem say the Velcro on these suits is so worn out that they are useless at keeping the suits closed. Any person wearing such a garment thus has their breasts or genitals on full display, according to the complaint.
The class says Salem denies privacy to its detainees for no penological purpose, strip-searching them multiple times per day, and conducting these searches in public settings or locations where cameras broadcast the searches to other locations in the jail.
In the case of the female lead plaintiff, a camera in her cell “transmitted images of her exposed in her turtle suit.”
She says her twice- or three-times daily strip searches also “occurred in her cell, which had a glass window where other detainees and male COs could view her being subject to these cavity/strip searches.”
One of the male lead plaintiffs says he was transferred to the Salem jail from a stint at Cumberland County that was without incident.
He says he was forced to stand completely naked in front of 10 other supposedly suicidal detainees while being admitted to a closed custody unit.
Just one of the four named plaintiffs does not describe improper placement on suicide watch. This man says he faced very public cavity searches, however, for each of the 10 times he was brought to court and whenever he reported for kitchen duty.
The kitchen searches occurred, according to the complaint, despite the fact that all kitchen utensils were secured such that they could not be removed from the kitchen.
Representing the class is William Riback of Haddonfield.