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Private prisons reach deal with women forced to show tampons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An agreement has been reached in a lawsuit between the nation’s largest private prison operator and women who were ordered to remove their tampons or sanitary pads to prove they were menstruating and not trying to smuggle in contraband.

A federal court order on Monday dismissed claims against Corrections Corporation of America, now named CoreCivic, and officers at South Central Correctional Facility about 85 miles southwest of Nashville.

Neither side would discuss specifics. The outcome suggests a confidential settlement that leaves the larger privacy rights question unresolved.

It also shields the information from having to be released under Tennessee’s public records law, said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of prisoner rights publication Prison Legal News.

Two female visitors alleged in the complaint that CoreCivic guards made them expose their genitals to prove they were menstruating.

The Nashville-based company argued that it can require women to replace their tampons or pads in the presence of guards if they reasonably suspect visitors are bringing in contraband. It said that in this particular case, the guards had their backs turned.

Friedmann said the undisclosed agreement reflects a lack of transparency in the private prison industry, which relies on contracts paid with taxpayer dollars. CoreCivic, a $4 billion company, generated $1.85 billion in revenue last year.

Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Randgaard referred questions about the case’s resolution to the private prison company. She said the agency has no information on the settlement, since it was not named in the lawsuit.

CoreCivic’s spokesman, Jonathan Burns, said the company “does not comment on litigation.”

Unlike most of CoreCivic’s other Tennessee facilities, South Central Correctional Facility is exempt from public records requests in most circumstances due to a quirk in the law, Friedmann said. It took a court ruling after Friedman sued to determine that the other facilities do fall under the public records law, he said.

“While inquiring minds want to know how much CoreCivic paid the women who filed this lawsuit, and whether the company changed its policies so the conduct alleged in the complaint does not happen again, CoreCivic doesn’t want people to know,” Friedmann said. “And presently, the law is on their side.”


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