A federal judge has denied an inmate's charge that his wife was strip-searched without cause, but he took the occasion to encourage the Legislature to re-examine the prison's policy for keeping married couples apart.
In a Monday hearing, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins told plaintiffs Kerry Boren and his wife, Lisa, that those charged with supervising visitation at the Utah State Prison "do their best with their limited tools." But in many parts of the world, there are systems more advanced in helping people maintain relationships.In 1986, Kerry and Lisa Boren were married in a jailhouse ceremony, but they were not allowed privacy to consummate their marriage.
Boren, 48, is serving a 1-to-15-year term for second-degree murder for the 1983 beating death of his first wife, Elvia Boren.
The Borens represented themselves, with occasional guidance from the judge, in their case against Utah State Prison official Newell Webb.
The couple filed a complaint alleging six counts of violation of their constitutional rights. Five counts were dismissed, but the remaining count of illegal search was argued - and dismissed Monday.
The accusation stems from a Nov. 26, 1988, incident in which Lisa Boren was taken to a women's restroom and searched by a female officer with two female medics observing. Boren was asked to remove her jeans because there was suspicion the pants had a hole in the crotch, which violates prison decency codes.
Taking the witness stand, Boren said she had never had such a humiliating experience in her life. She testified she had split the crotch of her pants - and other seams - because she had gained weight. When she was searched, the officer discovered the rip in the pants had been sewn. Since her marriage, she had become indigent and could not afford new clothing. Consequently, she had altered a lot of her clothes - including the jeans.
"If I want to see my husband, I found I needed to submit to this kind of humiliating experience." Corrections Office Becky DeMunbrun testified that Boren had been reported wearing the jeans with the hole in the crotch on several previous visits to the prison. There had been many complaints by others in the visiting room - particularly those with children - about Boren's sexually explicit clothing.
Boren had consented to the search. It was conducted with courtesy and dignity, DeMunbrun said. The stitches had been torn in the crotch and then resewn. Most people who gain weight expand seams in places other than the crotch, she said.
Officer Webb testified that the Borens had caused problems with "excessive bodily contact, rubbing and touching before." Sexually explicit clothing and touching causes trouble in a place where prisoners are "easily aroused because they are penned up."
Jenkins ruled the search process was reasonable and conducted in a discreet manner. There was no violation of constitutional rights.