Over 70 attorneys sign letter to Jackson County leaders about new security policies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Jackson County Detention Center continues to face criticism about its new security measures.

More than 70 attorneys wrote a letter to Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte, saying the new policies, as they are currently implemented, create disparities for clients and lawyers.

The letter was also addressed to the Jackson County counselor, County Executive Frank White Jr., Jackson County Detention Center Director Diana Turner and County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

The universal screenings require everyone, regardless of their titles, to pass through a metal detector before they enter the jail. If you can't pass through, you can't go inside the jail's secure perimeter. There are no exceptions.

But some women who are attorneys said they can't pass through the metal detectors because their underwire bras set them off. They said that leaves them facing a humiliating dilemma of either taking off their bra or sacrificing time with clients.

Forte and Turner have both said no one was asked or ordered to remove their bra.

They implemented the policy to reduce contraband in the jail and keep everyone inside safe.

"All we know when someone sets off the metal detector is that they’re setting it off, and we don’t know what the causation is," Turner told FOX4 on Monday. "Unfortunately, the equipment that we have doesn’t tell us whether it’s a piece of clothing, a button, an undergarment or a weapon."

Turner said jail staff changed the way they dress to comply with the new procedures. Plumbers who wear overalls replaced the button hooks with Velcro.

Attorneys wrote in the letter that they weren't given notice of the change.

They said it's impractical to dress a certain way, in bras without underwire, because they don't know when they'll need to go to the jail to meet with clients. They said even hooks on bras without underwires can set off the metal detectors.

And they said it creates disparities between men and women, and puts them in a situation where they aren't seen as equal.

"It is significantly harder for female attorneys to now get in, based on their undergarments," said Tracy Spradlin, an attorney who signed the letter. "Secondly, it is disparately treating male and female attorneys. As you know, males don't wear bras. They're still allowed their ties. They're still allowed their belts. They can still get in. And it's our contention that those items could be just as dangerous if they're put into the wrong hands. But they're being trusted differently than female attorneys."

On Thursday, Turner released a bulletin. It says attorneys can have non-contact visits with their clients, without going through the metal detectors. The jail introduced that system back in February to reduce contraband, and it separates the visitor from the inmate with a glass panel, with a phone headset use to communicate.

If the rules aren't changed by Wednesday, the attorneys who signed the letter and their supporters will protest outside the Jackson County Detention Center.

On Monday, Turner told FOX4 there are not plans to change the procedures, but she's open to conversations and is willing to talk about different, stronger security measures.

Additionally, Jackson County Legislator Crystal Williams' office said Forte filed a Sunshine Law request for e-mails from Williams regarding the new security measures. She's been outspoken against the new policies.

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