Death has a dress code in Alabama, and it seems to make zero sense.
Ivana Hrynkiw, a reporter and producer for AL.com, often covers criminal justice proceedings as part of her job. As such, she has attended multiple court proceedings, sentencings and other events including executions.
Hrynkiw is no stranger to appropriate court or professional attire, and had been given no notification that there had been any changes to policy.
Last week, Ivana was given the heavy task of attending an execution in order to report on it. She put on an outfit she had worn to previous executions, grabbed everything she needed to do her job, and headed to the facility.
That's when things took a surprising turn for her.
Despite being in clothing she had worn to previous executions, Ivana was called out in front of the rest of the press and officials in attendance, and told that her clothing was inappropriate.
Alabama Department of Corrections officials told her that her skirt was too short. Again, she had worn this skirt to previous executions without issue and there had been no policy updates.
Being a taller woman, her skirt fell to the top of the knee, not the bottom of the knee.
She pulled the skirt down lower on her hips to try and get the few extra centimeters that this representative deemed would make the skirt respectable and appropriate. Again, she was denied and publicly told she would be unable to view the execution because she was inappropriately dressed.
According to the department, all skirts must be to the knee and all visitors must be dressed in business or business casual attire.
Watching this situation play out, a male reporter stepped in to offer an extra pair of pants he had in his vehicle.
The pants, waterproof fishing waders with suspenders, were deemed more appropriate and respectable than the business casual skirt Ms. Hrynkiw had worn.
That wasn't the end of the department dress-coding her like an 8th grade girl, though.
Looking her over again, the official decided her outfit was still not okay.
The new problem were her shoes.
Ivana was wearing a pair of heels which showed the tips of 2 or 3 of her toes. This, the representative told her, was too revealing.
According to department regulations, the only footwear that is prohibited are "slippers, beach shoes, and shower shoes." The dress code makes no mention of open toed shoes.
Rather than be turned away and prevented from covering the execution, she grabbed a pair of sneakers from her car.
She showed up in a business casual outfit she had worn to several professional events and prior executions over her 20 year career. Those clothes were deemed inappropriate for the occasion.
But a strangers fishing waders and sneakers from her trunk were okay.
Humiliated, uncomfortable, and aware of how ridiculous and borderline disrespectful she now looked, Ivana tried to just sit down and do her work.
She wasn't initially going to speak on it in public, but other members of the press who witnessed her treatment started to talk.
Eventually, Ivana decided it would be best for her to make a statement.
The show of support was immediate - particularly from other professionals who were in attendance during the incident.
Amazingly, as this developed it came out that Ivana wasn't the only woman who had been subjected to sudden dress code checks.
\u201cI first covered an execution in 2002, and have covered many since then. This was the first time I had to stand to have the length of my attire checked.\u201d— Kim Chandler (@Kim Chandler) 1659146804
\u201cThe thing about the death penalty is, it really puts people in awe of the majesty of the state. Especially when it makes a female reporter wear the hipwaders of a man she\u2018s never met to witness the state-sponsored homicide.\u201d— Lindsay Beyerstein (@Lindsay Beyerstein) 1659155576
\u201cI\u2019m proud to work with @IvanaSuzette. What happened to her last night was wrong, and we will follow up with @ALCorrections. Ivana is always, always professional \u2014 and despite how she was treated, she focused first on covering an execution in #Alabama. Thank you, Ivana.\u201d— KellyAnnScott (@KellyAnnScott) 1659105892
\u201c@IvanaSuzette The fact that oversized men\u2019s rain gear and tennis shoes were considered more \u201cprofessional\u201d than a skirt and heels tells you everything you need to know about how women are viewed in this country\u201d— Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara (@Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara) 1659067328
\u201c@IvanaSuzette The gauntlet women have to walk to get in to prison to do our jobs is dehumanizing. \n\nI\u2019ve been forced to confirm by visual inspection that I had on \u201cappropriate underwear\u201d while fully clothed in pants, no less. \n\nMeanwhile, men just saunter through the metal detectors.\u201d— Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara (@Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara) 1659067328
\u201c@IvanaSuzette I think the real news here is that we are a failed society that is executing so many people that you are re-wearing outfits to attend.\u201d— Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara (@Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara) 1659067328
\u201cWho would\u2019ve thought that the exposed calf of a woman was more obscene than state sanctioned murder.\u201d— Joe Poor (@Joe Poor) 1659110399
\u201cRight before literally killing someone, the government said her open toed shoes were inappropriate.\u201d— josie duffy rice (@josie duffy rice) 1659106109
Officials have since issued a semi-apology acknowledging that their dress code does not actually prohibit her shoes, that enforcement has been arbitrary at best, and that in the future they will notify all attendees in advance..