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Alabama prison officials told reporter her ‘skirt was too short’ to witness execution

Ivana Hrynkiw, a journalist for Alabama-based news outlet AL.com, traveled to Atmore on Thursday to cover the execution of death row inmate Joe Nathan James Jr., but prison officials told her when she arrived that she “couldn’t view the execution because my skirt was too short.”

Hrynkiw detailed the dress code controversy in a tweet on Thursday evening, writing that she had worn the skirt to prior executions and professional events without any issues. 

“At 5’7″, and 5’10″ with my heels on, I am a tall and long-legged person. I tried to pull my skirt to my hips to make the skirt longer, but was told it was still not appropriate,” Hrynkiw wrote. 

“Luckily, a very kind photographer from a Birmingham TV station offered me his rain gear – waterproof, Columbia PFG style fisherman’s wader pants. The ADOC deemed this an appropriate swap for my skirt.” 

Once she had on the man’s pants, a prison official told Hrynkiw that her open toe heels were “also too revealing,” so she ran to her car to get a pair of tennis shoes. 

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not return a request for comment on Sunday evening. 

A dress code posted online for prison visitors says that “all dresses, skirts, and pants shall extend below the knee (females only).”

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Kim Chandler, a reporter for the Associated Press, tweeted that her attire was also scrutinized by prison officials. 

“I first covered an execution in 2002, and have covered many since then,” she tweeted on Saturday. “This was the first time I had to stand in the media room to have the length of my attire checked.”

Kelly Ann Scott, editor-in-chief and vice president of content at Alabama Media Group, said in a statement for AL.com that the episode was “unacceptable, unequal treatment.”

“This was sexist and an egregious breach of professional conduct. And it should not happen to any other reporter again.”

James, the death row inmate, was executed for the 1994 murder of Faith Hall and was pronounced deceased at 9:27 p.m. 

“Despite wearing a pair of waders from a man I have never met and casual tennis shoes, I continued to do my job,” Hrynkiw said on Thursday evening. “This was an uncomfortable situation, and I felt embarrassed to have my body and my clothes questioned in front of a room of people I mostly had never met.”

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