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Sheriffs weigh-in strip search controversy

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RICHMOND, VA. (WTVR)--A law suit filed to the Portsmouth City Jail by nine female healthcare providers has sparked discussion about strip searches.

The women are taking the sheriff to court with claims they were forced into an invasive strip search at the door before they could come in to work.

The women claimed they were taken to a private room, ordered to remove all their clothing and to bend over and allow a visual body cavity inspection by a female deputy.

CBS 6 asked local authorities in area jails to comment on the practice.

"That would never happen here," said Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade.

He said routine strip searches don't exist in his jail. He contended that without having specific evidence collected on one person that the practice would never be used.

"I can't imagine going to the level of doing…” said Wade.

Yet, in a Tuesday interview Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson said the suit held no water.

"The nurses need to understand they don't run the jail, we run the jail," said Watson.

Watson defended his right to strip search after repeated problems with contraband getting inside his jail.

Richmond Sheriff CT Woody, like Sheriff Wade, said the practice doesn't exist on his watch either. Both men claim they want employees to feel trusted, employees like Henrico jail nurse Kelly Kanney.

"I was appalled, I was really appalled," said Kanney.

Kanney believes that if the Portsmouth practice were put to use here, it would certainly end her job.

"That would be very humiliating…,” said Kanney.

Sheriff Wade also argues that using the practice can do even larger damage to a jail operation as a whole.

"If you're treating the nurses like that how do you expect them to treat the inmates?" said Wade.