Two women have called out a south London prison after they were turned away from visiting their friend for not wearing bras, adding that the rules could be disrespectful for many.
Anneka Sutcliffe, 31, and friend Sally Hole, were left outraged when they couldn’t get past security checks at HMP Thameside despite being dressed ‘completely sensibly’.
The pair, who were wearing vests beneath ‘plenty of layers’ of high neck clothing, were told after being patted down by a female guard that they would not be allowed in for their appointment on November 6.
HMP Thameside’s website instructs that visitors ‘must be appropriately dressed at all times’ and that ‘underwear must be worn and covered by clothes at all times’.
However, Bristol-based Extinction Rebellion activist Anneka, argued that the rules are not only vague but could be discriminatory for some who are uncomfortable wearing a bra.
She later took to Facebook to share her experience, adding: ‘My breasts have never been so angry!’
Anneka told Metro.co.uk: ‘We were shocked. We were dressed – in a way that we thought was – completely sensibly. For me, a vest is underwear.
‘I have very small breasts so I don’t need to wear a bra. I hardly ever wear one.
‘I understand the intention of the rules but Sally and I couldn’t have been dressed less provocatively’.
She pointed out that visitors who identify as non-binary or trans may not wear bras and could find the rule ‘really disrespectful’.
Anneka added: ‘Also, what about age? Would a young teenage girl have to wear a bra?’
The friends were left ‘shocked and really upset’ that they were turned away, however, a third friend they were with did manage to get in as she was wearing a bra.
Anneka, who had caught a bus at 4.30am to make the appointment, continued: ‘We had purposely read all the rules really carefully… We didn’t want to get anything wrong because we just wanted to see our [friend].’
‘It seemed really unreasonable so we asked to speak to the manager. She put her foot down and said the rules are really clear,’ she added.
But Anneka said they later met another visitor, who was wearing a baggy jumper and jeans, who was ‘beside herself’ that she couldn’t see her friend as she too was not wearing a bra.
HMP Thameside said that ‘all women must wear bras’ unless they have a medical reason why they cannot.
It added that this is not only for the decency of other visitors but also to aid the searching and detection of illicit items and prevent allegations of inappropriate contact by staff.
Anneka and Sally will now have to wait until the end of the month to visit their friend and said they will be sure to wear a bra this time.
Craig Thomson, Serco’s Prison Director at HMP Thameside, said: ‘All women are required to wear underwear including a bra when visiting the prison, not just in the interests of other visitors, particularly children, but also to help our staff who are searching for contraband.
‘Anyone who is abusive or intimidating towards our staff will be refused entry to the prison.’
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