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Missouri jail's 'humiliating' crackdown on underwire bras sparks escalating feud


Jackson County officials accused of sexism over new security protocol

Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images

Controversy over a Missouri county jail's new security protocol banning certain undergarments has escalated into a feud dubbed "bra-gate," as attorneys, corrections officers, and lawmakers push back against the policy they say is "humiliating" for women.

What are the details?

Last month, the Jackson County Detention Center began prohibiting women from entering the facility if their bra set off a metal detector. Since the decree was issued, female visitors including attorneys and mental health professionals have had to remove such risky undergarments in order to visit their clients..

In response, more than 70 criminal defense attorneys signed an open letter to Jackson County officials, saying while they understand reasonable security measures, the underwire bra ban goes too far. The male and female lawyers called the policy "humiliating" and "sexist."

According to The Kansas City Star, some jail employees are also unhappy with the new entry requirements, reporting that "the union representing corrections officers complains that some female jail workers have been forced to buy new bras at considerable expense due to the change."

Jackson County director of corrections Diana Turner defended the policy, saying it was necessary to ensure no contraband could be smuggled in for detainees.

But on Thursday, officials offered a compromise, KCUR-FM reported, allowing female attorneys to opt out of going through the metal detector for non-contact visits with their clients (by phone and separated by glass).

Not good enough, say signatories of the attorney protest letter. The lawyers have threatened that if the bra ban isn't lifted by next week, they will follow through with a planned protest over bra-gate which is set to occur in front of the detention center on Wednesday.

Anything else?

The bra debacle also sparked a public feud between elected officials, after Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte made a sunshine request asking to see the email exchanges between county legislator Crystal Williams — who, according to The Star, first brought the issue to light — and the attorneys who spoke out against his new security measures.

In response, Williams accused Forte of retaliation, then implored him to "just fix the damned problem."

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