Underwire bras may still be setting off the metal detectors at the Jackson County jail, but the standoff over the issue, nicknamed “bra-gate,” has ended — at least for attorneys.
A new security protocol quietly rolled out in May caused some uproar after female attorneys complained they had to remove their bras to clear screening. At the time, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté tweeted, "No one was asked to take off underwire bras." However, the rules required that everyone clear the detector.
Tensions continued to rise as more women came forward, and the only solution offered by Jackson County Department of Corrections Director Diana Turner was a policy that permitted non-contact visits for attorneys.
Despite a protest and a 90-minute meeting of the County Legislature in June, Forté doubled down on the new policy, which many considered sexist. He said his priority was to keep contraband out and protect jail staff.
At the time, the Legislature urged a quick fix and a mediated meeting. But the issue remained at a standstill. Attorneys set a meeting with Forté a few weeks later, but they said he didn't show up.
But, at the start of September, the two sides reached a compromise with little fanfare. Now, if an attorney sets off the metal detector, she is wanded or patted down.
"All we ever wanted was to be able to meet with our clients the same way as men, and now we have been able to accomplish that," said attorney Tracy Spradlin.
Spradlin commended the County Counselor's Office and the sheriff for their work in resolving the issue, and she said she was thankful they didn't have to bring a lawsuit against Jackson County. Spradlin said it was "no secret" that they would have gone that route.
"I’m thankful it didn’t come to that," she said. "I think that would have been another waste of our time that we could have been meeting with clients and a waste of the county’s time for something that could be so easily resolved."
Forté declined an interview with KCUR, but in a statement, he said the jail and the sheriff's office "are forward focused with no time to dwell on past issues."
However, the issue remains for jail employees. Attorney Katherine Myers told KCUR the resolution does not apply to jail employees. Myers represents Charlotte Hardin, a jail employee who worked for the county for 20 years. She was placed on indefinite leave after removing her bra and sending it through the X-ray machine. Hardin has yet to return to work.
The new protocol for attorneys is still technically operating on a trial basis, but Spradlin said neither party has indicated any issues with the agreement.