Wrong bra gets lawyer barred from visiting her client

Also, no bra:

Attorney Brittney Horstman was not packing heat.

She was wearing an underwire bra.

And when the metal detector went off on a visit to the Miami Federal Detention Center, security guards wouldn’t let Horstman in to see her client.

The attorney reminded guards of a detention center “memo” allowing female attorneys wearing an underwire bra to enter. But the guards would not relent.

Horstman stepped into a bathroom and removed her bra. In blouse and jacket, she returned, and cleared the walk-through detector.

Again, guards refused to let her pass — now, because she was braless, which is against prison dress code guidelines.

Nice.

Thanks to Tom Foolery for the link.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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37 Responses to Wrong bra gets lawyer barred from visiting her client

  1. matttbastard says:

    Speechless. Absolutely speechless.

  2. Jadey says:

    And just yesterday someone told me about a guard who was told by her supervisor to stop wearing underwire bras. Never mind that for some women (including this one apparently), it’s not an option on a daily basis like that. Supervisor got told to get stuffed at least.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    The article has the following quote: “But the FDC’s dress code, which stresses ‘appropriate attire,’ has a laundry list of restrictions. Women, for example, cannot wear sweat pants, sweat shirts, sun dresses, leotards, wraparound skirts, crop tops, low cut blouses, zippered dresses/shirts, button-down dresses/skirts or low-cut dresses.”

    So basically no skirts, right? The only skirts that I have that don’t have buttons, zippers or are not wraparound skirts are hippie skirts. And I’d imagine hippie skirts are against the of the dress code.

    Plus, the only shirts that you’re left with, really, are sweaters. And they’re talking about Miami. So wtf?!

    I am so, so glad that I’m a transactional attorney.

  4. Havlová says:

    But I’m sure this has nothing to do with gender, just tots completely gender-free rational guidelines. Yeah.

  5. Anne says:

    I do not understand how they can have a dress code deciding what underwear a visitor should wear. How is that in any way relevant to prison or inmate safety?

  6. Joe says:

    Ah, the intersection of sex and Kafka.

  7. Jadey says:

    Anne: I do not understand how they can have adress code deciding what underwear a visitor should wear. How is that in any way relevant to prison or inmate safety?  

    Well, it is, actually. The issue is twofold: 1) items that can be transferred to inmates as contraband (which I assume is the supposed issue with underwire bras, but SERIOUSLY, that’s completely impractical and asinine), and 2) stuff that might provide fodder for riling up inmates, which includes gang sign stuff and sexy clothing, among potentially other stuff too (those are the most obvious and common). Which is not to say that there isn’t still an issue of policing women for having “sexy” bodies no matter what they wear. But there is a rationale for having dress codes and putting a reasonable limit on certain apparel that would be fine is places other than correctional institutions. Still, a dress code needs to be better thought out and applied in a way that does not unduly discriminate.

    Again, not in any way saying that dress codes aren’t created and used inappropriately – just saying that they aren’t inherently or always wrong.

  8. Jadey says:

    Well crap, I have no idea what happened with the formatting there. :( I even used the quote this link. The first para is a quote, and the second two are from me. I’ll be more careful next time.

  9. Tricia says:

    @Anne – it’s pretty common that you can’t have underwires. They don’t want you passing anything that can be made into a shiv.

    Here in Wisconsin, the problem with the underwire is it sets off the sensitive metal detectors. You can put it in a bag separately and run it through the xray machine, walk through the metal detector, and then put it back on, but really it’s just easier to find non-underwire bra. (I have 2 I keep for prison visits.)

    In other states, like Alabama, where they frisk you, but don’t use a metal detector, underwire isn’t a problem. With the frisk though, they often require you pull out the band of your underwear so that they can see that you are 1) wearing it and 2) not wearing a thong.

    I have yet to see a prison that doesn’t require a bra and full-panty underwear. Apparently, prisons are universal in their belief that inmates will go wild with testosterone if you’re bra-less.

  10. Tom Foolery says:

    But there is a rationale for having dress codes and putting a reasonable limit on certain apparel that would be fine is places other than correctional institutions.

    Any dress code can be used to harass, intimidate, and exclude attorneys who do the essential work of defending people from this country’s out-of-control criminal justice system. That’s precisely what the guards in this story did, and it’s both unacceptable and totally predictable.

  11. Jadey says:

    Tricia: @Anne – it’s pretty common that you can’t have underwires. They don’t want you passing anything that can be made into a shiv.

    Interesting. It must be partly a US thing, because I don’t think it’s that common in Canada (or New Zealand according to what I’ve been told). I’ve never been asked not to wear an underwire bra and the women I was speaking with the other day when this subject came up also hadn’t on any regular basis.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    @Tricia Do they prohibit women from wearing thongs for the same reason that it will make the inmates go crazy? Do they require men to go through the same procedure of showing waistbands? Thank you so much for the work that you do because I could never put up with that nonsense.

  13. Bitter Scribe says:

    Wasn’t this an SNL skit? If not, it should be.

  14. Tricia says:

    @Elizabeth – I can’t really think of any reason other than they prohibit “promiscuous” attire and/or “obscene” materials from entering a prison generally. Men do not have to go through the same procedure of showing waistbands and/or pulling out/shaking out their bra to show nothing is hidden inside. In my experience, most men get frisked out in the open. I prefer that. Unfortunately, guards get it into their heads that women prefer to have frisking done in the privacy of a bathroom, which actually makes me much more uncomfortable. I feel better that nothing fishy will go on if everyone can see.

    I have on several occasions been told to do some ridiculous things, like to button ALL the buttons on my shirt, to change my (completely not see-through and multi-layered) shirt because it was white (and thus MUST be transparent), and to remove my hair clips to make sure I wasn’t hiding something in them.

    What’s most annoying about all of this, is that there are supposed to be special rules for attorneys. Whether that is or isn’t fair is up to debate, but as someone’s counsel and member of the bar who has passed my moral character evaluation, I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m not transporting something EVERY time I go see a client (i.e., do my job.)

  15. Kate says:

    There was a piece in Cris Beam’s “Transparent” in which she tried to visit a friend in prison and had the same problem. It’s really sickening that these policies still exist. I hope they file a suit against the prison for denying the prisoner access to counsel.

  16. Jamie says:

    This extact situation happened to me when I went to visit a friend in prison.

  17. Flutterby says:

    Wait, is the ‘must have underwear’ rule for when one is wearing skirts only, or does it also apply to pants? I never wear skirts, and I rarely wear underwear; it’s baffling to think that trying to visit a friend in prison might result in me getting turned away because of my lack of undergarments, even if it leaves nothing exposed.

  18. PrettyAmiable says:

    Can someone explain the thong thing? Am I wearing my panties wrong? If I visited someone in prison, I’m fairly confident no one would know what underwear I was wearing. I ALMOST understand the underwire thing if you frame it as “it can be used as a weapon” – the same way guards probably wouldn’t let the average me bring a pen or pencil in when I go to see someone – but the thong thing makes NO sense.

  19. Tori says:

    … really it’s just easier to find non-underwire bra.

    For some folks, certainly. For some of us, the removal/X-ray process is a matter of minutes, while finding a non-underwire that fits may well take years. ;)

  20. Anna says:

    PrettyAmiable:I ALMOST understand the underwire thing if you frame it as “it can be used as a weapon” – the same way guards probably wouldn’t let the average me bring a pen or pencil in when I go to see someone – but the thong thing makes NO sense.  

    Well, a thong could be used as an impromtu slingshot, of course… ;-)

  21. Ric says:

    I wonder what would happen if she was bringing divorce papers.

    I was a process server at one point and had to serve divorce papers in a county jail. Not only did they let me serve them, but let me serve them to the wrong inmate.

    Seems like every corrections facility has its own policies

  22. Jack says:

    In Massachusetts, policies vary between prisons and visits, but at least some of the time female attorneys with underwire bras will be felt up when they pass through the metal detector, to make sure they’re not hiding a portable TV or a spot welder or something under there. Then they’re allowed to go through, so clearly it’s not a problem with the underwire itself being dangerous.

  23. Tori says:

    Well, a thong could be used as an impromtu slingshot, of course… ;-)

    Guess what my Tuesday After Work Experiment is going to be? :D

  24. Cat says:

    My biggest beef (as a law school student that has worked/is working with various indigent defense organizations) is that there’s anecdotal evidence that if you’re a prosecuting attorney, you don’t have to put up with this kind of harassment. It’s female defense attorneys that are most often harassed this way.

    Male defense attorneys are sometimes harassed as well, but it’s of a different tenor, clearly, since no one apparently cares what kind of underwear they’re sporting.

  25. Kevin says:

    Jadey:
    Still, a dress code needs to be better thought out and applied in a way that does not unduly discriminate.

  26. PrettyAmiable says:

    Anna: Well, a thong could be used as an impromtu slingshot, of course… ;-) 

    Anna FTW. Tori, please report back your findings. I’m willing to run concurrent iterations of this experiment so that we have reliable results.

  27. Pingback: Recaler un avocat à cause de son soutien gorge. | Insomnie du Geek

  28. Tori says:

    My results:

    My smaller thongs were utterly useless as slingshots. The material was too bunched up or closed in on itself or whatever to allow for separate places for the projectile (in my case, dog treats of various sizes) and the handhold. Thus, I could place the projectile in the slingshot, but I couldn’t hold on, wind up, or release it.

    I do have some microfiber thongs (from Target, IIRC), though, that performed adequately. They seem to have more material in a non-stretched state than do my other thongs, which meant 2 things: 1) their grip on the projectile was not one of Elastic Doom; 2) there was enough room for my hand to fit. So it *was* possible to launch a dog cookie across my small-house kitchen + living room. That said, being thin material, they are kind of floopy, and I don’t know how well they’d work at launching heavier objects. (And I’m not sure that thong + dog biscuit = Prison Weapon of Awesometude.)

  29. Tricia says:

    A little more fuel for the fire – the dress code for an institution I’m visiting next week:

    Dress code

    The following apparel is considered inappropriate and will result in the denial of visits:

    * Transparent clothing
    * Swimming suits
    * Shorts shorter than fingertip length (i.e., visitor standing naturally with arms straight down the side of the body and fingers extended)
    * Skirts or dresses shorter than fingertip length plus three inches
    * Strapless, tube or halter tops, and strapless dresses
    * Tops which expose the midriff (front and back)
    * Low-cut blouses, shirts and dresses; skirts with revealing slits
    * Spandex or Spandex-like and Lycra or Lycra-like athletic pants, aerobic/exercise tights or leotards
    * Underwear worn as outer garments or over the top of other clothing
    * Clothing with revealing holes or tears
    * Clothing with accessories with obscene or profane writing, images or pictures
    * Sunglasses

    Visitors wearing gang or club related clothing or insignia may be denied entrance into the institution, (i.e., motorcycle jackets bearing club logos.)

    These restrictions apply equally to men and women.

  30. Tori says:

    Tricia, if you add, “No jeans,” and, “No spaghetti strap tops or tank tops; sleeveless tops must cover the shoulder,” you have the parochial school dress code of my middle and high school years.

    Just sayin’.

  31. Redheadfae says:

    @Tricia… really? you find that “fuel for the fire”?
    I think most of it is common sense for visiting a prison.

    I do agree with you on the bra issues, and panties, seriously, it’s a silly position to give an attorney the same bs as the poor uneducated trollop who doesn’t own a decent shirt and skirt to visit her ole man. I’m with you on preferring to be searched where there are witnesses also. What’s next? Body scans? Yeesh.

  32. Tricia says:

    Here’s the particular “Fuel” I was looking at:

    * Shorts shorter than fingertip length (i.e., visitor standing naturally with arms straight down the side of the body and fingers extended)
    * Skirts or dresses shorter than fingertip length plus three inches

    Skirts have to be longer than shorts?

  33. PrettyAmiable says:

    Tricia: * Underwear worn as outer garments or over the top of other clothing

    Superman is FUCKED.

  34. Mezosub says:

    That whole litany about the dress code just seems totally pretextual to me.

    Sorta like how the whole prison-industrial complex relies on the pretext that the facilities are actually needed, useful, and perform a function to society by keeping dangerous criminals away from the rest of us.

    When about half the incarcerated population in the US is locked up for minor drug possession infractions and petty thefts, I as a taxpayer cannot trust or believe anything that these people say, and that includes these ridiculous “guidelines” about what female defense attorneys can wear while visiting their clients.

    Like Elizabeth said, those of us who are actually in practice have already passed the moral character evaluation, so being bothered about the dress code is just a pretext for the little people (prison guards) who couldn’t pass the bar to vex, harass, and annoy those of us who did.

  35. Emily says:

    Tricia: Here’s the particular “Fuel” I was looking at:* Shorts shorter than fingertip length (i.e., visitor standing naturally with arms straight down the side of the body and fingers extended)
    * Skirts or dresses shorter than fingertip length plus three inchesSkirts have to be longer than shorts?  

    In my experience wearing skirts and shorts, the waistband on skirts/dresses sits differently from the waistband on pants/shorts, so that when you sit down the bottom edge of a skirt moves up your leg, while the bottom edge of shorts and pants don’t. So, if you wear a skirt that just covers your knees standing, it won’t cover your knees sitting down. 3 inches sounds about right for the length change between sitting and standing for me, so my guess is that that’s the reason for the difference.

    Not being able to wear an underwire bra OR no bra though? That’s just ridiculous.

  36. groggette says:

    it’s a silly position to give an attorney the same bs as the poor uneducated trollop who doesn’t own a decent shirt and skirt to visit her ole man.

    What. the. fuck?

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