Considering the sheriff’s comments on the story, what happened to this woman was standard operating procedure.
An Indiana woman named Tabitha Gentry was arrested back in March following a heated argument she had with her estranged husband. She was arrested for disorderly conduct, and of course a “resisting arrest” charge was tacked on for good measure.
But what followed is what led to Gentry’s lawsuit against the Floyd County Jail. A local news station WDRB interviewed Gentry’s attorney Laura Landenwich, who showed reporters the jail surveillance footage:
“Almost immediately upon entering the jail, she’s assaulted by four officers. They grab her around the neck, they grab her body,” Landenwich said. The video shows officers then taking Gentry to what’s called the padded room.
“They hold her down,” Landenwich said. “There are two male officers and two female officers and they forceably remove her pants, her shoes, her underwear and her shirt and bra.
“Terrified and humiliated, she’s banging on the door asking someone to give her her clothing and someone comes to the door and says, ‘If you don’t shut up, I’m going to pepper spray you,’ and sure enough, they open the door, spray pepper spray into the room and they leave — and they leave her in there for 40 minutes, naked, in a cell filled with pepper spray.”
Landenwich says Gentry was then handcuffed and taken to wash out her eyes.
“She has a blanket draped over her shoulders, she’s paraded through the booking area in full view of anyone who happened to be there,” Landenwich said.
Landenwich said Gentry was put back in the cell and left there for five more hours before she was given a jump suit to wear.
“Now this is a woman, who under our system of law, is innocent until proven guilty. She’s charged and she’s charged with a misdemeanor crime that’s not a violent crime,” said Landenwich.
Landenwich believes what happened to Gentry is normal policy inside the Floyd County Jail.
“What we also see on the video is there is another inmate also being held naked prior to her entering that cell,” Landenwich said. “These are egregious constitutional violations.”
WDRB obtained two incident reports that claim Gentry appeared to be intoxicated at the time of her arrest and made threats toward officers.
In one report, an officer writes “I struggled getting her to the ground to remove her clothing per jail policy.”
WDRB spoke with Floyd County Sheriff Darrell Mills by phone Thursday.
When asked if it’s policy to remove an inmate’s clothing before booking, he said they “don’t strip search.”
Mills told WDRB there is certain criteria for different circumstances and each case is different. Before referring WDRB to an attorney, Mills said he thinks his staff acted appropriately.
Having her change into jail clothes is one thing. Stripping her naked, leaving her in a room naked for 7 hours, pepper-spraying her, and parading her around in front of everyone is entirely different. It might be “SOP” for these cops, and the jail employees might be used to seeing this sort of thing all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK. I bet these jail workers and cops wouldn’t like to be treated this way if they ever got arrested, and I bet they wouldn’t be treated that way, since they’re not lowly civilians deserving of humiliation.