Prison Firm Wants Strip-Search Records Sealed

     (CN) — Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America asked a judge to seal documents in a case brought by women claiming they had to prove they were on their period when they visited a Tennessee prison.
     In January 2015, Jane Doe sued CCA and South Central Correctional Facility employees for unreasonable search and seizure, claiming jail guards made her pull down her pants to prove that she was on her period when she visited an inmate.
     She was allegedly taken to a restroom, frisked for contraband, and was forced to pull down her pants for inspection.
     “Defendants, through their acts and omissions and pursuant to a custom carrying the force of law, required plaintiff to expose her unclothed genitalia to corrections officers to ‘verify’ that she was menstruating,” the lawsuit states.
     The complaint was later amended to add two more Jane Doe plaintiffs.
     Attorneys for the women say CCA sealed documents in the case without legitimate security concerns to protect itself from embarrassment. The company, meanwhile, said the plaintiffs are trying to “inflame the public” and expose confidential information.
     Last month, the three women filed a motion for partial summary judgment. Two supporting documents were also filed publicly but the exhibits were filed under seal, with plaintiffs asking the judge to let them file a redacted public copy in 10 days.
     CCA objected and asked that all of the documents be placed under seal.
     The women shot back, asking the judge to reject the company’s request and instead order it to publicly refile its motion for summary judgment and supporting documents, which it had previously filed under seal.
     “Under defendants’ broad reading of the protective order, any filing even mentioning prison conditions at a CCA-run state prison would be locked away, effectively immunizing CCA prisons from public scrutiny on an issue of obvious public import,” the plaintiffs said.
     The company counters that the plaintiffs “believe the procedures and practices of visitation staff of a prison should be open for the world to see, but fail to realize that such information can have devastating effects to a prison’s ability to keep its inmates, staff and visitors safe.”
     CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in a statement that safety and security for jail staff and inmates “is our top priority.”
     “To that end, we have a responsibility to ensure that any release of information does not undermine safety and security,” Owen said.
     U.S. District Magistrate Judge E. Clifton Knowles has temporarily placed the plaintiff’s documents under seal but has not made a final ruling. He also has not yet ruled on whether the company must unseal its filings.
     The U.S. Department of Justice announced last Thursday that it would begin phasing out private prison contracts, after an audit found they have more safety and security problems than government-run prisons.
     CCA was quickly hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming its stock dropped 39 percent on the news, with shareholders alleging the company misled investors.
     The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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