More questions are being raised about strip searches at the Woodbury County Jail. The county settled three lawsuits earlier this year. Now, an attorney representing two more women is speaking out.
Sitting before members of the media, Shannon Peters and Maureen Rattray say they want change, after they say they were unlawfully strip-searched at Woodbury County's Jail. "I was humiliated, physically assaulted, and stripped naked in front of males at the jail," said Shannon Peters.
Court documents show Peters was booked into the Woodbury County Jail on May 27th, 2012 after violating a "no contact order," restricting contact with her boyfriend.
A copy of the complaint, filed in federal court by Peters' lawyer, says that after she was booked, a female jailer ordered her to take her clothes off. Peters says she hesitated because several male jailers were standing outside the room with the door open. When Peters asked if she could undress in front of female jailers only, Peters says the female jailer in the room grabbed her arm and twisted her around. Peters says the male jailers then came into the room, and joined in the assault. Peters says she left the room nearly naked with only a sheet of paper "the size of a small bath towel" to cover herself.
Peters' attorney says the correctional officers acted in "wrongful and unconstitutional conduct". It's something he says could be remedied through additional resources at the Law Enforcement Center. "I'm here today because I don't think he's given the resources he needs for a top to bottom review of this facility. Attitudes need to change at this facility. I think Sheriff Drew would like to have those things happen," said Dave O'Brien, Peters' Attorney. "We sure could use more resources, and we're building on training. We have training that is ongoing, and I believe that policy and directive manuals should always be reviewed," said Dave Drew, Woodbury County Sheriff.
Before 2007, the Woodbury County Jail used strip-searches on all inmates charged with serious misdemeanors or greater offenses. But, eight months after Maureen Rattray claims she was unnecessarily strip-searched, that practice ended. But, she says that's not enough.
Nicole Clay, another alleged victim, has also filed a lawsuit in federal court. Her trial is scheduled for February. Peters' is in December.
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