Earlier this Week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 majority opinion, upheld New Jersey prison policies requiring mandatory strip searches for those entering jail no matter the severity of the offense, according to CNN.
The plaintiffs who challenged the NJ law, in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, were arrested for relatively minor offenses.
For instance, one of whom was arrested for walking a dog without a leash.
The policies were applied a bit differently in 2 separate NJ prisons, yet about equally intrusive.
In one NJ prison the search consisted of "a complete disrobing, followed by an examination of the nude inmate ... by the supervising officer, which is then followed by a supervised shower with a delousing agent." The policy of the second prison "required groups of 30 to 40 arrestees to enter a large shower room, simultaneously remove all of their clothing, place it in boxes and then shower."
Although the Supreme Court recently ruled that strip searches are afforded greater protection than other less-intrusive searches, prisoners have traditionally enjoyed less privacy rights than ordinary U.S. citizens. This is because the Court has reasoned that heightened security often times outweighs an inmates right to privacy.
These NJ policies have good intentions in that they seek to make prisons a safer place for inmates and guards alike because prisons are naturally dangerous places that house dangerous people.
However, the blanket search requirement exhibited by the policies seems to be excessively overbroad as it requires every arrestee, no matter the crime committed, to be subject to a strip search.
The Supreme Court has acknowledged the intrusiveness of strip searches. The Court has also acknowledges that those types of searches cause embarrassment, humiliation, and maybe even long-term trauma to those searched.
Thus, it seems as if the court could have easily carved out a small portion of this are of constitutional law in order to protect these less-than-dangerous arrestees from unnecessarily intrusive search measures.
It is unfortunate, however, that those like the plaintiff's in Florence will continue to be strip-searched in order to preserve uniformity in the search policy amongst prison inmates.
What do you think?
To see a more in-depth analysis regarding the Supreme Court's recent analysis of the constitutionality of search and seizure laws see the aforementioned CNN article written by Sherry Colb, professor of law at Cornell University.
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