Editorials

Seizure of one pocketknife at Jackson County jail doesn’t justify bra crackdown

Bra protest in front of jackson county courthouse

Women attorneys protest Wednesday at the Jackson County Courthouse against jail security policy requiring removal of underwire bras.
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Women attorneys protest Wednesday at the Jackson County Courthouse against jail security policy requiring removal of underwire bras.

Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté is still trying — and failing — to justify an overreaching security policy that forced many women attorneys and visitors to remove their underwire bras at the Jackson County Detention Center. Forté now is touting a defense attorney’s self-surrender of a single pocketknife at the jail last month as some sort of victory for a process that was roundly lambasted from all sides.

When the county jail implemented new security screening measures, underwire bras worn by some female attorneys set off the metal detectors. As a result, some attorneys were unable to visit clients without removing their undergarments. (Bras no longer trigger the metal detectors, though Forté won’t say what changed.)

This week, Forte’s office released a video from May that shows defense attorney Molly Hastings voluntarily surrendering a plastic bag containing a small pocketknife used for promotional purposes. The video shows Hastings at the front desk handing over the pocketknife to jail staffers. But for Forté to suggest the screening process rooted out a rogue defense attorney is wrong.

“This incident is why the Jackson County Detention Center must have a security screening in place,” Forté said in a statement. “While we do not know what her intentions for having the knife were, the security screening process served its purpose as a deterrent.”

Coincidentally — or not — Hastings had helped organize a protest to challenge the jail’s new policy.

“I would never intentionally put someone in danger,” she said.

Forté is right, of course, to insist on ensuring that the jail is safe and secure. No one should be able to carry weapons or contraband into the facility. But it is possible to keep knives and other banned items out of the jail without making women take off their bras.

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