We hope local jailers use discretion in applying Monday’s misguided Supreme Court ruling, which clears the way for them to perform strip-searches on anyone they incarcerate for any reason.
Reversing a long-standing interpretation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches, the Court’s five conservative members ruled that any inmate can be subjected to a full-body search — even when there’s no reason to suspect he or she possesses contraband.
Though the case that reached the Court involved a black man from Maryland who’d been strip-searched twice after being falsely arrested for failing to pay a fine he’d in fact already paid, it could just as easily have been the one from Montgomery County 11 years ago, involving a farmer who was arrested for failing to properly feed his horses. (The county paid $2 million to settle that one.) There was no basis to suspect either man had drugs or weapons in his possession, or anything else that might disrupt jail security, yet officials engaged in strip searches of both of them as a matter of course; it was their policy with all prisoners.
It’s a stupid policy because it’s unnecessary in so many instances, and because it’s invasive and humiliating. Jailers should continue to perform these searches selectively, employing the standards in place before the Court’s ideologues decided it was less important for unconvicted detainees to be afforded their civil rights than for jailers to engage their brains and exercise a little common sense.
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