When a Client’s Right to Access Counsel Hangs by A Hook…Of A Bra

Donna Thompson-Schneider is a solo criminal defense attorney who hasn’t visited her incarcerated clients.  Lest you think that this is another story about an irresponsible attorney giving her clients ground for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, read on.  The reason that Donna hasn’t visited her clients is because the prison has a practice of  requiring women visitors to remove their bras to clear the metal detectors (apparently, not just underwires but even hooks will set them off).  Except…that many other law enforcement personnel, including district attorneys and employees of the public defenders’ office can bypass security entirely.  Moreover, as Donna discusses here, she was willing to accede to a security wand or even a pat down, but prison personnel rejected both options.  After trying for amicable resolution, Donna decided to send this letter to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

There’s so much wrong with the prison’s policies it’s
hard to know where to begin to attack it.  First, there’s the obvious
intrusiveness of a search policy that requires women to remove articles
of clothing, even in privacy (and this assumes that a woman is wearing
a shirt that provides adequate coverage without a bra).

Second, the policy jeopardizes security more than protecting it.  As
Donna describes in her letter, prison personnel were willing to allow
her to enter the prison and go up to the restroom to remove her bra.
Surely, if she had hidden con-bra-band, she could extract it, leave it
in the restroom and retrieve it after passing through security.  Seems
that the more sensible option would be to simply wand her at the door
and be done with it.

Finally – and near to MyShingle’s own heart – why should private
attorneys handling court appointed work have a more difficult time
accessing incarcerated clients or witnesses than prosecutors or public
defenders?  Court appointed attorneys get so much criticism for being
incompetent and irresponsible.  And yet when a court appointed actually
tries to satisfy professional obligations, she’s prevented from doing