The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘She has no pants and she is in court’: Judge outraged over inmate’s appearance

Kentucky judge Amber Wolf reacted with disbelief when she heard the female inmate standing in front of her in Jefferson District Court had been denied pants and feminine hygiene products for the three days she was in jail. (Video: Jefferson District Court)

A Kentucky judge berated jail administrators when a woman detainee was brought into a courtroom for sentencing, appearing to have on a long shirt and no pants, complaining that she had not received a jail jumpsuit or feminine hygiene products since she was taken into custody.

“Excuse me?” Judge Amber Wolf said in court. “This is outrageous. Is this for real?”

The woman, who had been in custody for several days for failing to complete a diversion program for a 2014 shoplifting charge, was wearing a gray University of Louisville T-shirt that covered a pair of yellow athletic shorts, jail spokesman Steve Durham told The Washington Post.

The judge released the woman with a $100 fine and time served, according to the jail.

Michigan inmates to get black-and-white striped uniforms. Orange is now too cool, sheriff says.

The courtroom video footage, which was reported by Fox affiliate WDRB, showed the woman standing behind a podium Friday in court in Jefferson District Court in Louisville, tugging on her shirt from time to time to make it longer. The woman’s attorney told the judge that the inmate had been denied pants as well as feminine hygiene products for days.

“I’m not trying to embarrass you. I’m very sorry,” Wolf said as she called the jail. “Can we get her something to cover up with? Anything. Anything. Anything.”

“I have a defendant who has been in you all’s jail for three days who is standing in front of me completely pants-less. Has no pants on,” Wolf said on the phone, presumably to jail administrators. “She has requested pants for three days and has been denied pants for three day. She has no pants and she is in court. And she has also been denied feminine hygiene products. What the hell is going on?”

She added: “I am holding her here until she is dressed appropriately to go back to the jail. This is outrageous.”

‘They’re as necessary as toilet paper’: New York City Council approves free tampon program

The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections inmates’ handbook states that “prior to assigning inmates to permanent inmate living areas,” the inmates will be given clean jumpsuits and bed linens but it does not say how long the department has to provide such items.

The handbook also states that “inmates will receive a hygiene pack upon their assignment to a permanent housing location,” but does not address protocol for inmates who have not been given a permanent placement.

It states that, once in permanent housing, inmates should be given “a washcloth, toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, bar soap, comb and container of deodorant.”

“Toilet paper will be distributed to inmates daily,” according to the inmates’ handbook. “Feminine products will be distributed to each female living area daily.”

Durham, assistant director for Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, told The Post that inmates who are expected to bond out within 72 hours are kept in the clothes in which they were arrested, whereas inmates who are assigned to housing are given jumpsuits.

Durham said the woman, who was not named by law enforcement officials, was arrested July 24 in Fayette County wearing “normal clothing someone would wear on a hot summer day.” Three days later, he said, she was transferred to Jefferson County, where she had a warrant, was booked into custody and moved into temporary housing, which, he said, is typical for inmates accused of minor offenses.

When the woman appeared in court Friday morning, Durham said it appeared that the judge took the defendant and her attorney at their word without verifying it.

The judge in the case could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the video, it does seem that as the woman walked into the courtroom, light-colored fabric, which appeared to be shorts, slipped out from underneath her T-shirt. The woman was seen wearing yellow shorts in her booking photo as well as in surveillance footage showing her release from custody. Officials from the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections provided the photos to The Washington Post.

When asked about the woman’s claims that she was denied feminine hygiene products while she was in custody, Durham said that the jail has “an abundance” of products in the dorm and that “there’s no evidence she asked for anything at all during the time she was here.”

In the courtroom video, the judge seemed enraged that the woman had been held so many days on what she said was a “first-time shoplifting charge.”

“Am I in the ‘Twilight Zone?'” Wolf said in court. “What is happening?”

She told the woman that she should have been held for a day — “tops.”

“The fact that you’re in custody is your fault,” she told the woman, adding: “But once you were arrested, the rest of this is completely inhumane and unacceptable and I’m very sorry that you had to go through this.”

“Again,” she added, “I want to extend my deepest apologies to you for the way that you’ve been treated while you’ve been in our jail. This is not normal.”

Read more:

The ‘tampon tax,’ explained

The sudden controversy around the cost of tampons