South Carolina's prisons director is going to punish inmates found performing public sex acts by dressing them in pink.
The two-year old punishment deters inmates and protects female officers from prisoners who purposefully try to humiliate them, director John Ozmint said. His agency has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
"We don't believe the United States Constitution protects an inmate's right to publicly gratify himself," Ozmint said. "We're hopeful federal courts won't look into our Constitution and create such a right."
Inmate Sherone Nealous, 31, filed the lawsuit in June 2006, claiming the Corrections Department "is placing inmates' lives and physical well-being in danger."
"The color 'pink' in an all male environment no doubt causes derision and verbal and physical attacks on a person's manhood," Nealous, who is serving a 10-year sentence for assault and battery with intent to kill, wrote in his lawsuit. "This policy also gives correctional officers an easy avenue to label an inmate."
Nealous has not actually worn the pink jumpsuit, according to agency spokesman Josh Gelinas. He is currently separated from the general population, he said.
The policy allows prison officials to discipline inmates found performing sex acts in front of corrections officers by making them trade their customary tan jumpsuit in for a pink one, which must then be worn for three months.
The lawsuit estimated about several hundred inmates had worn pink in the past two years.
In some South Carolina prisons, inmates who break the rule are housed together in areas where women are not allowed to work, officials said. "They are trying to humiliate or offend females," Gelinas said.
The department cited a Florida case where 12 female nurses were awarded nearly $1 million (740,000 EUR) in January in their sexual harassment case against that state's Department of Corrections. A jury held the agency liable for harassment because administrators failed to prevent inmates from exposing themselves and from making "sexually demeaning" comments to women, according to the court filing.
South Carolina is not the first state to think pink in trying to deter inmates' sexual conduct. In the mid 1990s, the director of Alabama's prison system had a policy similar to South Carolina's, though officials said it is no longer used.