Disrobe immediately, citizen
The Supreme Court wants to see you naked: Rules strip searches permissible nomatter how severe the crime
On Monday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that any citizen admitted to jail can be subject to an invasive strip search. From jaywalkers to murderers, jail officials now have the Court backed authority to force any detainee to “undergo a close visual inspection while undressed.” Any person, booked for any offense.
Most are familiar with the case by now. In 2005, Albert W. Florence was wrongly detained in the Essex County Correctional Facility due to a computer error which lead Mr. Florence's arresting officer to believe the man had a warrant out for his arrest.
During Florence's wrongful detention, he was subjected to two strip searches, where correctional officers inspected his body for contraband, wounds, and signs of gang affiliation. Most intrusively, Florence was instructed to lift his genitals, and cough while in a squatting position.
What most would see as an unnecessary affront on Florence's civil liberties — specifically his 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches — the Court has ruled to be permissible by any jail or prison throughout the nation.
Justice Kennedy delivered the majority opinion, emphasizing the importance of jails preventing contraband from entering their institutions and that the Supreme Court must “defer to the judgment of correctional officials” when it comes to this constitutional claim.
In something of an embarrassing admission, Justice Kennedy has declared the Court incapable of interpreting the Constitution in regards to a fairly severe civil rights issue. In doing so, the conservative wing of the Court ignores a precedent Chief Justice John Marshall established over 200 years ago.
By ignoring the principle of Judicial Review, the Court overlooked an opportunity to strengthen the rights and help preserve the dignity of all Americans. Instead, they backed off, granting government unprecedented authority over not yet convicted detainees.
The majority opinion states this power is necessary to keep jails free of infection, contraband and potential gang violence. All valid concerns, none of which justify the degrading nature of a strip search.
The Court was clear, though, that while they have given jails the power to impose invasive strip searches on any person entering their institution, they certainly are not required to do so. Indeed, 10 states currently have in place bans on such searches, so the decision isn't as far reaching as it could have been.
Somewhat curiously, it was the conservative portion of the Court that decided this case. A group that generally aims to reduce the size and power of government, has empowered it in a way that echoes policies of a police state. I use that term hesitatingly, but the similarity cannot be ignored.
Perhaps if the Court had been a bit more focused with their ruling — including protections for those arrested for non-violent crimes, for instance — I would be more hesitant to throw around police state accusations. But because they made the judgment a blanketed one, I must adorn my tin foil cap at the potential abuse the ruling could permit.
I hate to sound so conspiratorial, but when the Supreme Court repeatedly fails to protect the liberties and well-being of Americans, concern must be raised. The high court is becoming increasingly political, and when their duty is to remain unbiased and uphold the integrity of the Constitution, that is certainly a cause for worry.
Read more details and make up your own mind regarding the case Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders here.