WARREN — Corrections officers at the Maine State Prison have filed a class-action grievance against a policy adopted by the Department of Corrections after female visitors complained they were being asked to remove their bras before they could visit inmates.

Jim Mackie, staff representative for the corrections officers for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said the grievance was filed in the past week with the human resources director for the Department of Corrections.

Corrections officers are concerned that the new directive puts the staff at risk, Mackie said.

Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick announced this month that women visiting state facilities would not be required to remove their bras to pass through screening.

Fitzpatrick said last week that he was unaware that women were being asked to do so, until he was contacted by the media.

In 2015, female attorneys visiting clients at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland lodged complaints when they were told by guards that they had to remove their underwire bras before they could meet with their clients. Sheriff Kevin Joyce later apologized, blaming a misinterpretation of a revised jail policy on metal detectors, which called for scanning visitors who trigger the metal detector with a wand.


Mackie said he has been unable to confirm that any officers actually requested women remove their bras before they could get into the prison.

The new policy directs officers to screen visitors a second time using the metal detector if the detector was activated on the first pass, Mackie said. If a visitor fails the second time, the corrections officers will use a hand-wand metal detector. If the visitor fails that screening, then the person will be allowed to enter the prison for a no-contact visit with a prisoner.

Mackie said officers oppose that policy. He said the policy should be that if a person fails to pass a metal detector three times, they should agree to a pat-down or be refused access. He said otherwise, people could bring weapons inside the prison.

Fitzpatrick said last week he had problems with staff putting their hands on any member of the public. He said if there is no evidence of a weapon but the wand sounds for no obvious reason, there can be increased supervision of that person during a visit to a prisoner.

He said his goal was a middle ground where safety is ensured but the staff also shows respect and human decency to the public.

If the grievance is denied, the dispute could ultimately go to binding arbitration, Mackie said.

Fitzpatrick said Friday he had not seen the grievance but would look into it.

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