- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. (AP) — Protestant worship services at Brunswick Correctional Center will be moved from a large visiting area to smaller, more secure rooms to curb the need to strip-search inmates, prison officials said.

To accommodate all who wish to worship, the prison will allow multiple services rather than one large one, said Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Prisoners at the 700-inmate, medium-security facility complained last month that they were sometimes subjected to strip-searches after leaving Sunday evening services.

They told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that officers entered the visiting room during services June 11, some pulling out rubber gloves to be used in the search.

Officials said the strip-searches were conducted because the visiting area — the only room large enough to accommodate worshippers — is outside the secure area, and precautions must be taken to prevent contraband from getting inside.

Although any inmate is subject to such searches, conducting the services inside the secure area “will greatly reduce the occurrence of strip-searching,” Mr. Traylor wrote in an e-mail to the Times-Dispatch and reported yesterday.

Mr. Traylor said the solution was worked out between Cecil E. McFarland, president of the Chaplain Service of the Churches of Virginia Inc. — a Protestant chaplain service for state prisons — and Lou Cei, the department’s volunteer coordinator.

Mr. McFarland said the arrangement “hopefully has resolved the strip-searching.”

Brunswick’s chaplain, the Rev. James L. Moore, said the June 11 incident appears to have been an error in judgment by the security staff.

“Sunday services in the visiting room by the chaplain and by volunteers aren’t routinely bothered,” said Mr. Moore in an e-mail.

He said prison officials “know the importance of religion behind the wall, and they use every positive method to change those under their care.”

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