A New Mexico woman has filed a civil rights suit claiming a corrections officer Maced her vagina during a strip search, contending the conduct was cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawsuit, filed last week in New Mexico federal court against New Mexico corrections officer Blanca Zapater, alleged that a “chemical agent” was sprayed on Marlene Tapia’s vagina as a way to “punish” her.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the New Mexico branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Tapia, told benswann.com that the incident was “tantamount to torture.”
“It’s just the maliciousness, the wanton disregard, wanton maliciousness that the corrections officer demonstrated,” he said. “This is the kind of chemical that is intended to be sprayed on other parts of the body, to cause pain, but to spray it on the very most sensitive part of a person’s body only doubles the pain.”
Tapia was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County, N.M., in 2011 on a probation violation when corrections officers asked her to go in the shower area of the jail so they could perform a strip search, according to the complaint.
When Tapia bent over, a corrections officer noticed a plastic baggie protruding from Tapia’s vagina. The complaint then said Zapater “sprayed a chemical agent directly on Ms. Tapia’s genitals twice.” The complaint said Tapia wasn’t using force against the officers and did not offer any resistance.
“Spraying Ms. Tapia on the genitals served no purpose other than to punish [her],” the federal lawsuit stated, adding that spraying her vagina “would not cause the baggie to become dislodged.”
Tapia accused Zapater of violating the jail’s rules on strip searches. The lawsuit said the policy says “if evidence shows that an item is in the body cavity of an inmate, he/she will be referred to the Contract Medical Provider for treatment.”
But instead of doing that, “Zapater used chemical agents against Ms. Tapia.” The suit said Zapater was disciplined for her actions.
Tapia was then taken to the jail’s medical unit for an exam. She claimed she suffered “severe pain that lasted for several weeks, including burning, swollen genitals, painful urination, and pain and burning” on her face.
The suit seeks unspecified damages for Tapia’s injuries.