Strip Searching Small-Time Criminals Is Ludicrous

alcatraz jail cellsToday, the Supreme Court seemed like it might be interested in enacting a rather crazy sounding policy in jails across the country, which would require all people who are arrested -- even those on minor charges -- to undress and shower while being watched by guards. They may even have to endure invasive strip searches, including very close inspection of their genitals. Um ... WHAT?!

This whole issue has bubbled to the surface in the case of Albert Florence, a finance manager in New Jersey, who was arrested on a warrant for ... not for selling crack or shooting someone or robbing a bank ... no, an UNPAID FINE! He was arrested by a state trooper who pulled over his family's SUV while Florence was in the passenger's seat; his pregnant wife had been driving, and their 4-year-old was in the backseat. What followed for Florence sounds like nothing short of a nightmare. He says he was twice required by jail guards to undress, open his mouth, and lift his genitals.

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The second time around, he had to bend over and cough, "in case he was hiding something inside of his body." Wow, just wow. How on earth does what happened to Florence make any sense at all?!

The official party line on searches from jail officials and the Obama administration is that there should be close searches of anyone entering the general jail population. But just how close? And why would you subject someone to this if there was no real suspicion that they had any contraband? And okay, obviously, you'd want to be a bit more cautious and search a murderer who appears to be a total crackhead addict ... but isn't there an area in jails for people who are brought in on minor charges and will likely be let out sooner rather than later? If not, there should be. There are MAJOR differences among various charges! (Think not paying a parking ticket versus, oh, murder/rape, etc.)

Furthermore, according to studies cited by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, contraband that does get into jails and prisons usually does not arrive with the inmates themselves! It comes in through contact visits and GUARDS! Ha, wow. So there really is no great precedent for this kind of draconian policy. We won't know until spring whether or not it'll be enforced, but hopefully the Supreme Court realizes there's a better, more humane solution to this issue than across-the-board, extremely invasive strip searches.

What do you think about this policy? Should anyone arrested be subjected to a strip search?

 

Image via Michael Himbeault/Flickr

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