Lawsuit over strip searching women at S.C. jail certified as class action

Lawsuit alleges women detained at the Beaufort County Detention Center were "routinely subjected to humiliating strip and body cavity searches" while similar searches were not performed on men


By Sebastian Lee
The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

BEAUFORT, S.C. —A 2020 lawsuit alleging women detained at the Beaufort County Detention Center were "routinely subjected to humiliating strip and body cavity searches" while similar searches were not performed on men was certified as a class action on July 14.

The plaintiffs, Cheryl Munday and Margaret Devine, now represent all "female pre-classification detainees in the custody of BCDC who, upon their admission to BCDC, were strip/visual body cavity searched, while pre-classification males were not, from February 27, 2015, until May 5, 2020."

Anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 women could be represented in this class. Damages could be awarded to all, or there may be individual damage hearings if a judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

Munday and Devine were arrested separately on DUI charges, Munday in 2018 by Bluffton Police and Devine in 2019 by the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The women's charges were later dismissed.

Both Munday and Devine were subject to full-body "pat-downs" as well as being ordered to bend over and cough several times while being strip searched, the lawsuit says.

During Munday's pat down, an officer "grabbed Munday's crotch with great force" and assaulted and attempted to fondle her, according to the suit.

Devine was also ordered to shower as the guards watched twice, the lawsuit says, adding that the officers required that she was "making sure to wet her hair completely" the second time.

"The presence of contraband in detention facilities is a recognized safety concern, and searches are performed at the Beaufort County Detention Center to protect the health and safety of all detainees and the Detention Center staff. Beaufort County will address the matter during court proceedings," said Beaufort County Spokesman Chris Ophardt in a statement.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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