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Lawsuit challenges county jail's invasive checks for sex diseases

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

A judge sent Lawrence Thompson to Cook County Jail for refusing to sign documents in his heated divorce three years ago.

He was outraged when he got there and learned every detainee was expected to submit to an invasive check for sexual diseases.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly described the procedure in the opinion he handed down Tuesday: "A urethral swabbing test which involved the insertion of a metal rod with a swab on the end into his penis."

County officials say the test is voluntary and anyone can opt out.

But Thompson said he was not given any choice. He was ordered to unzip by a man smoking a cigarette who identified himself as the "d--- doctor" who warned Thompson and the other admittees, "You don't want to piss off the d--- doctor," the opinion states.

Thompson found the procedure a painful control tactic by jail officials and filed suit in federal court.

The county asked the judge to throw out the case but Kennelly ruled against the county Tuesday and said the case can proceed.

Dr. John Raba, director of health services at the jail, said the screening is lauded by health officials and appreciated by most detainees.

"There is absolutely no intimidation," Raba said. "Do all men want to have it done? No. Are they allowed to refuse? Yes."

Kennelly, in his opinion, found the program less organized, with some jail personnel not knowing how long it took to get the results.

"Supt. [Daniel] Brown was unaware of any inmate who has ever been treated for a venereal disease based on the results of the screening," Kennelly wrote.

Thompson denies signing the consent form, but if he did, that would not let the jail off the hook, Kennelly wrote.

"The consent form merely advises that the detainee will be screened for sexually transmitted diseases. It says nothing about the testing procedures or bodily intrusions involved," he wrote.



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