Post submission by Aram James: The US Supreme Court today –in a 5-4 decision (Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington) ripped at the heart of our of 4th Amendment – our right to be free of illegal and unreasonable searches and seizures; and our right to insist that before the government invades our privacy, our homes, our cars, our bodies—that they must have probable cause to do so. Today’s decision does away with the probable cause requirement for strip-searches– for even the most minor offense i.e., violation of a leash law.
Today’s decision states only that jail officials may strip-search anyone arrested who will subsequently be placed in the general population of a jail or prison –even for the most innocuous offense—not that they have to or must be strip-searched. The decision leaves wide-open discretion to jail officials to determine who and under what circumstances someone shall be subject to an invasive strip-search.
Now—more than ever, it will be incumbent on local community activists/watchdogs to ensure –as the dissenters in this US Supreme court decision declared – that strip-searches only occur if there is reasonable and probable cause to believe that the person being admitted to jail/prison —may be secreting and or attempting to bring illegal contraband into the jail facility– and or constitutes some other articulable health or safety concern.
We need to know what the current standards are in our county for carrying out evasive strip-searches and insist that probable cause still be the standard —before folks are strip-searched and humiliated after being arrested for offense that doesn’t justify a strip search or justify shredding a way the personal dignity of any human being without serious cause.