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ADOC apologizes for “confusion” prior to execution

ADOC forced a female reporter to change her clothes because her skirt was “too short.”

The seal of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The Alabama Department of Corrections, in the wake of the execution of Joe Nathan James, Jr., spent Friday afternoon issuing follow-up press releases in response to growing national outrage over the way ADOC treated two female reporters and its decision to not disclose the reason behind a lengthy delay in James’ execution. 

As reporters waited on Thursday at Holman Prison in Atmore, a female reporter for al.com, Ivana Hyrnkiw, was told by an ADOC official that her skirt was too short and that the open-toed shoes she was wearing weren’t allowed. Hyrnkiw was going to be barred from viewing the execution.

A television cameraman loaned Hyrnkiw a pair of fishing waders, and she was able to find a pair of tennis shoes in her car to wear. That outfit – consisting of too-big fishing waders held up by suspenders and tennis shoes, along with her original blouse – was deemed “appropriate,” Hyrnkiw said on Twitter. 

Hyrnkiw also noted that she had worn the skirt in question to previous executions and to numerous other work events. 

Another reporter, AP’s Kim Chandler, said on Twitter that she was subjected to similar treatment from ADOC prior to James’ execution. An ADOC official made both reporters stand and then essentially measured the length of their skirts. 

When she asked why, Chandler wrote that the ADOC official simply said that the “warden was enforcing a dress code.” 

The arbitrary nature of Holman warden Terry Raybon’s enforcement of vague dress code rules did not surprise a number of attorneys who have made visits to Holman to speak with clients. Two attorneys who spoke with APR – who both declined to be named because they worried their clients might be treated unfairly at the prison – said they had witnessed female attorneys being denied access to clients over petty, insignificant issues, such as how tight their dress pants were. 

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In response to Chandler’s tweet, Leah Nelson, the research director at Alabama Appleseed, spoke of her experiences having her undergarments inspected during her visits with clients. 

Other women, including attorneys, reporters and advocates, responded to the various social media threads about the issue. Most said they understood the need for dress codes at a prison, but they took issue with the arbitrary, overly subjective manner in which the codes were enforced – a practice that left many feeling as if dress code enforcement was simply a way to make life difficult for them. 

The threads drew thousands of comments. And the story was picked up by news outlets all across the country.  

In response, ADOC issued an apology “for the confusion” caused by its enforcement of a dress code. The statement said each warden determines enforcement of dress codes, but that the code will be included in future media advisories. 

“We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this regulation may have caused,” wrote public information officer Kelly Betts. “We hope by including it in future media advisories, we can avoid this kind of situation.” 

While the skirt measuring was taking place, ADOC medical officials were apparently struggling to get IVs started in James’ veins – a fact ADOC commissioner John Hamm declined to disclose on Thursday night when reporters asked directly about the cause of the three-hour delay in James’ execution. 

ADOC issued a separate press release on Friday addressing that issue. It noted that executions have clear protocols that must be followed and that the staff at Holman was attempting to do so. 

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“The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure,” ADOC wrote. “Fortunately, this was not necessary, and with adequate time, intravenous access was established.”

Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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