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Suit Proceeds Against CoreCivic by Guard Strip-Searched at Georgia Prison

by David Reutter


On March 13, 2023, the federal court for the Southern District of Georgia denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a guard for private prison giant CoreCivic, alleging she was unconstitutionally strip-searched at Wheeler Correctional Facility (WCF).

“Though Defendants attempt to parse the definition of ‘strip search,’” the Court said that “exposure of a person’s genital area while her shirt is on certainly falls within the realm” of one.

When Ariel Curtis reported for duty on October 4, 2020, she passed through a metal detector, and it went off. Pursuant to policy, Sgt. Sharon Creamer conducted a pat-down search of Curtis, but she did not find any metal. Creamer then called Cpt. Cassandra Boney to the screening area. Together they led Curtis to the parking lot, where Bony told Curtis to pull her pants down. Though not wearing underpants, Curtis complied. The strip search uncovered no metal or contraband. Bony then searched Curtis’ vehicle but found nothing there.

Boney then demanded and took possession of Curtis’ car keys, instructing her to walk back through the metal detector. This time, it did not go off. The city of Alamo Police Department was contacted, and officer Kay Zanders responded. She thoroughly searched Curtis’ vehicle again but found no contraband. A body cavity search found no contraband in Curtis’ vagina, either. Boney then returned the keys to Curtis and instructed her to leave and not return to work until contacted by an investigator.

With the aid of Macon attorney Tyler B. Kaspers, Curtis filed suit in the Court, alleging claims of unreasonable search and seizure against CoreCivic, the city of Alamo and Boney. Another count charged CoreCivic with negligent training and retention of Boney. Defendants moved to dismiss.

The Court found CoreCivic’s policy was more than a matter of Curtis’ employment, since it also allegedly served a penological purpose to protect institutional safety. That made both the firm and Boney state actors, the Court said, dismissing their defense to federal civil rights claims, provided Curtis could cure pleading defects in the policy claim against CoreCivic. However, she failed to plead any “custom or practice” by Alamo that would give rise to its liability, so the city was dismissed from the suit.

State-law claims against remaining Defendants were dismissed for negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress, though an invasion of privacy claim survived. Curtis was also granted leave to amend her complaint to cure the pleading deficiency against CoreCivic’s policy. See: Curtis v. CoreCivic, Inc., 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41909 (S.D. Ga.).

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Related legal case

Curtis v. CoreCivic, Inc.