Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone arrested for any offense could be strip-searched before being admitted into jail, regardless of whether or not officials suspect the possibility of smuggled weapons or drugs. The vote was 5-to-4.
This is illegal in at least 10 states and banned by international human rights treaties. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court believes that strip-searches do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches.”
Many lower courts have also allowed strip-searches of any person arrested and admitted to a jail. People may be strip-searched after arrests for driving without a license, failing to pay child support, and violating a leash law.
In one case, a nun was strip-searched after being arrested for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration.
Though this may seem severe, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy claims that many dangerous criminals are often caught for minor offenses. By searching everyone regardless of the offense, it would be possible to identify criminals before they commit more violent or deviant crimes. They could also be prevented from bringing dangerous weapons into jails and prisons.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came about through the political differences between many of the court justices.
The court’s conservative members, including Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, believe that the courts must allow correctional officials the liberty to make their own judgments when dealing with arrests.
On the other hand, the liberal justices, including Justice Stephen G. Breyer, claim that strip-searches violate individual privacy and human rights.
Both sides of the Supreme Court have agreed that the ruling, though it allows anyone arrested to be strip-searched, does not involve bodily contact.
It also does not mean that everyone arrested would necessarily be strip-searched. The strip-search is an optional tool used at the discretion of the correctional officers.
By Nidya Sarria
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