LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. (WFLA) – Showering inmates seen during video visitation sessions at the Pasco County Jail aren’t the only ones being exposed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
A complaint filed with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office indicates naked inmates have been seen on camera on the jail video visitation system for anyone outside the facility talking with incarcerated family members or friends.
Inmate Bruce William Rogers sent 8 On Your Side his complaint alleging his privacy rights were violated, and he provided a list of 15 dates this year when he claims the camera showed prisoners showering.
He went on to say since November, 21 grievances have been ignored by the sheriff’s office and met with “intimidation and threat of disciplinary action.”
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Amanda Hunter said Rogers’ complaints have not been ignored.
She did say he was warned but not disciplined about violating jail policy that requires complete uniforms to be worn outside the cell.
David Fathi, the director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said local taxpayers could end up on the hook if a lawsuit is filed.
“I think the jail is skating on really thin legal ice here. Incarcerated people are not animals in a zoo,” Fathi said. “Courts have repeatedly recognized that they have privacy rights and they have a right not to have their naked bodies viewed by members of the general public against their will.”
Hunter had said due to the layout of the jail, there is not a more discreet place to “move the camera.”
“We continue to work with our video visitation vendor on preventing continued violations of our detention center policies,” Hunter said in an email. “The (sheriff’s office) is not aware of any claims or complaints by any group and therefore have no comment on that.”
Fathi said even without knowing the layout of the Land O’ Lakes facility, it’s hard to believe the camera could not be moved to an angle that would not show the shower in the background.
“The bottom line is if incarcerated people are being viewed undressed by members of the general public against their will, that is a significant problem,” Fathi said.
Video visitation costs inmates 50 cents a minute through the system run by Homewav. That company has not responded to requests for comment.
According to Hunter, in-person visitation stopped after the pandemic hit, but could resume at some point.