Colored Underwear Ban Dropped for Illinois Detainees

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By Bernie Pazanowski

An Illinois jail policy requiring female detainees to either “go commando,” without any underwear, or wear only plain white underwear under their jail uniforms violates their due process rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held March 9 ( Mulvania v. Sheriff of Rock Island Cty. , 2017 BL 74370, 7th Cir., No. 16-1711, 3/9/17 ).

The sheriff’s alleged fear that detainees would make tattoo ink from colored underwear didn’t outweigh the detainees’ dignity interest, the court said in an opinion by Judge David F. Hamilton.

Being deprived of their underwear is “very uncomfortable,” “embarrassing,” “humiliating” and “upsetting,” the detainees claimed.

Even if the white underwear policy “turns out to be rationally related to a legitimate interest, the dignitary harm imposed by the policy might still be excessive in relation to that interest,” the court said.

However, the court refused to certify a class of other detainees who might have been affected by the policy in the past.

Judges William J. Bauer and Joel M. Flaum joined the opinion.

Law Office of Kenneth N. Flaxman P.C. represented the detainees. Rock Island County State’s Attorney represented the jail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at

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