In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Woman To Sue Prison For Forced Body Search

Woman to sue prison for forced body search (CBC)
Fri, 28 Nov 2003

KITCHENER, ONT. - The lawyer for a woman inmate who underwent a "traumatizing" body search wants to sue an Ontario prison for sexual assault and damages.

John Hill, a lawyer for Tracy Curry, said his client was coerced into undergoing an anal and vaginal search on Oct. 23 by officials who accused her of having cocaine.

Curry, who has been in prison for nine years for second-degree murder, had returned from a visit to a halfway house when a sniffer dog detected drugs on her. According to Hill, Curry was thrown into a cell for observation and told that she could come out only if she consented to an X-ray. She agreed and the X-rays didn't show anything.

Hill said Curry, a victim of sexual abuse, was subjected to a body cavity search by doctors, even though the X-rays confirmed she wasn't smuggling drugs. Hill said Curry was pressured to submit to the search because she wanted to prove her innocence. Curry is preparing for parole and re-entry into society.

"There are a lot of women in prisons who have been sexually abused in their lives, who are especially vulnerable, and for them to undergo these types of searches raises a lot of psychological horror for them," said Hill.

He hopes that by taking this case to court, it will have ramifications across Canada on the treatment of women prisoners.

"The rules are very clear. Body cavity searches on female inmates can not be accomplished unless there is confirmed consent and not coerced consent," added Hill.

When asked to comment, Grand Valley Institution told CBC that it does not discuss individual cases.

Search and Seizure Quick Facts
There are three types of searches:
Summary search
• a general "pat-down" or "frisking" over clothing or inside pockets.
Strip search
• involves the removal of all clothing to permit a visual inspection of a person's private areas.
Body cavity search
• a physical inspection of the genital or anal regions.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada issued strict rules limiting a police officer's ability to conduct a strip search. Strip searches can only be carried out by an officer of the same sex as the person being searched. Only a physician may perform cavity searches and they must be done at a medical facilit