The Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote allowing officials to strip-search people arrested for any offense, even if the officials had no reason to suspect the presence of contraband, said The New York Times.
Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the conservative justices in the high court, stating that the courts were in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officers considering the possibility of smuggled weapons, drugs and information about gangs. Kennedy wrote, "every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," according to The Times.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the dissenting opinion, said strip-searches were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy" and should only be used in special circumstances.
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The case in question involved Albert Florence, a New Jersey resident, who was arguing that it was unconstitutional to force people to strip down for inspection. Florence was arrested mistakenly over records that said there was an outstanding arrest for unpaid fines, said MSNBC. He was held for a week in two different jails before the charges were dropped, and at each jail, he had to undergo a strip search and shower with delousing soap.
The court's decision said it was difficult for prison officials to know who was dangerous among the 13 million prisoners processed each year. The court also pointed out that the Oklahoma City bomber was originally arrested for a minor offense and one of the 9/11 terrorists had been stopped and ticketed days before the hijacking of Flight 93, according to MSNBC.
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The court said, "People detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals," according to the Associated Press. The dissenting justices said jails already had prisoners submit to pat-down searches, metal detectors, delousing showers and having their clothes searched.
In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld a policy of conducting body cavity searches of prisoners who had contact with visitors, on the premise that the prisoners could have obtained something they shouldn't have, noted the AP.
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