The pink underwear worn by inmates in Arizona's largest county are a hallmark of America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff. They also have become the target of criticism by an appeals court considering the case of a mentally ill man who mistakenly viewed officers' efforts to forcibly clothe him as a rape attempt.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that strip searches and other steps may be necessary for jail security, but questioned the legal justification in one particular case for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's policy of dressing an inmate in pink undergarments.
"Unexplained and undefended, the dress-out in pink appears to be punishment without legal justification," the court said in its majority decision. It also noted earlier in the ruling that it's fair to infer that the selection of pink as the underwear color was meant to symbolize the loss of prisoners' masculinity.
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