Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders
I have written a lot of my articles about the economy and wage increases lately. Most everyone is interested in the outlook for wage increases and most of us have been impacted by the recession that started in 2009. In fact, most of us are still being impacted today.
However, I noticed an article recently that many represented by the OPBA might be interested in. It relates to the use of strip searches at jails and other detention facilities based upon the recent ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, #10-945, 132 S. Ct. 1510, 2012 U.S. Lexis 2712.
In the instant case, the arrest was made due to a bench warrant that was no longer good. He had fallen behind on paying a court fine, but had actually paid it off several years prior to his arrest. He was then strip searched at one prison and transferred to another six days later. He was then strip searched again, which lead to his complaint.
Mr. Florence felt that he should not have had to endure the humiliation of a strip search based upon the charges against him and his good behavior. Both of the prisons had a blanket policy of strip searching any and everybody when they arrive regardless of the charges. This was the focus of the ruling.
Prior to the Florence ruling, a reasonable suspicion standard was the law of the land. There had to be a detailed analysis to prove the need to strip search an inmate.They had to consider such issues as what type of inmates they were housing, what type of offence they were charged with, and how they were behaving.
Four of the Justices felt there should be a reasonable suspicion that the detainee might be in possession of contraband that could be a threat to the safety and/or security of officers in order to conduct a strip search. They felt there were other options available rather than forcing the humiliation associated with strip searches.
Although they did mention that it is difficult and dangerous to work in such environments, they pointed to the seven federal courts that have ruled for a reasonable suspicion standard for strip searches. They also noted that ten states have made the reasonable suspicion standard the law.
The dissenting judges also pointed out that many correction officer organizations believe that in most circumstances strip searches should only be done for reasonable suspicion. They further noted the amount of contraband found during the strip searches was quite small.
Rather than strip searching without reasonable suspicion, they said much more reasonable methods could be just as useful without being so humiliating. Among their suggestions were metal detectors, pat downs, and searching clothing while the detainee is showering.
However, the majority ruled otherwise. They acknowledged the inherit dangers in the Corrections field and the requirement for safety at length. Further, they noted that those in the field understand the risks and dangers much better than anybody else. Therefore, they should be the ones to create proper policies. As such, they gave the administrations a great deal of latitude in the creation of such search policies. In effect, they ruled that the interest in safety and properly running the institution trumped the inmate’s constitutional rights. Of course they also noted that different institutions may not have such rights given the differences in facilities and their populations.
In addition, they pointed out that case law upheld the use of strip searches due to the decrease in the likelihood of carrying contraband into prisons. The amount of contraband actually found wasn’t a major factor in such cases.
New inmates may not even be fully researched when they enter the system. Some may be weekend inmates because they are low risk, but that would make it easier for them to bring contraband into the system on a regular basis.
Furthermore, given the ever changing populations, it creates a large burden to monitor them enough to properly weed out those who should be strip searched. Given the large number of injuries committed with contraband, it doesn’t make sense to create such burdens. Over ten thousand COs are injured annually from inmates, and many more inmates are hurt by each other.
There are also some benefits to the actual inmates being searched. In doing so, illness and infectious diseases can often be noticed. Thus treatment can begin and the rest of the population can safely avoid it. Furthermore, gang symbols are easily detected, which allows officials to place them accordingly.
Last Updated (Monday, 11 March 2013 18:08)