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Maine State Prison Rescinds Bra-removal Policy for Female Visitors

When Air Force veteran Stacy Venable arrived at the Maine State Prison on February 11, 2017 to visit her nephew as she had several times a year for the past seven years, she was ushered through a metal detector as usual. This visit was different, however. Venable’s bra, which did not have an underwire, nevertheless activated the screening device.

When that had occurred in the past, she was patted down and allowed to continue with her visit. Instead, Venable, 54, was told she would have to remove her undergarment in the bathroom before she could enter the facility. She refused.

“There’s a line I don’t cross, it’s called integrity,” she said. “I’m not taking my bra off to go into an all-male prison.”

The same thing happened to Alice Gagne, 47, when she went to visit her son in late February 2017. In the past, she’d informed guards that she was wearing an underwire bra and received a pat down. She was informed that pat down searches were no longer an option, and the only way to proceed was to put her bra in a locker while she visited. The bra-removal policy was also applied to underage female visitors.

After a handful of women contacted the Bangor Daily News with their stories, the newspaper reached out to Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick’s office to inquire about the practice. On March 6, 2017, Fitzpatrick announced that the policy would be changed immediately.

“I own it,” he said. “It’s not going to happen anymore. There’s got to be a middle ground where we can be respectful and still maintain safety and security.”