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By Lawrence Lessig

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SCOTUS Broadens Jailhouse Strip-Search Rule

Posted on Apr 2, 2012
AP/Mel Evans

Albert Florence sits at home last October in Bordentown, N.J., with his attorney, Susan Chana Lask. In a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against Florence, who faced strip searches in two county jails following his arrest.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that U.S. Supreme Court justices voted along party lines when approving, on a 5-4 vote, the expansion of strip-searching guidelines to include anyone who’s been arrested for any offense and is en route to jail.  —KA

The New York Times:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations.

... The federal courts of appeal were divided over whether blanket policies requiring jailhouse strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses violate the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. At least seven had ruled that such searches were proper only if there was a reasonable suspicion that the arrested person had weapons or contraband.

Justice Kennedy said the most relevant precedent was Bell v. Wolfish, which was decided by a 5-to-4 vote in 1979. It allowed strip-searches of people held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York after “contact visits” with outsiders.

As in the Bell case, Justice Kennedy wrote, “the undoubted security imperatives involved in jail supervision override the assertion that some detainees must be exempt from the more invasive search procedures at issue absent reasonable suspicion of a concealed weapon or other contraband.”

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By heterochromatic, April 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment

vec——when you’ve spent as much time studying not just our present legal
system, but the history of the Common Law, then I’ll allow you to rap my mind.

prisoners get searched…. always have, always will.  their dignity does not
accompany them into jail as do very few of their rights while they’re in custody.

why not you help expand my mind by posting the part of the Accords that
prohibit searching prisoners indicted for criminal actions?

I would be most interested.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

There is a lot more built into the “presumption of innocence” then you seem to be able to rap your two dimensional mind around.

At the core of a presumption of innocence is the assumption that the “citizen” has rights; one could extrapolate from this the “right” to basic human dignity.

Under the Geneva Conventions it is against the Law that our Congress ratified to treat prisoners in such a way as to compromise their dignity. It would seem that our 4 White Supremacist (plus one Uncle Tom)on the highest court would agree.

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By heterochromatic, April 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

vec——the presumption of innocence is a legal term
of art.

there is nothing real about presuming someone to not
be a criminal when you incarcerate the person after
charging a crime or crimes to the person.

thus it has always been.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

As much as I hate to admit it heterochromatic in his own uniquely fascist way is making a logical argument. We as a people have passively sat back and allowed so many of our rights as citizens to be chipped away compromising our modesty at this point should be the least of our concerns.

It is not about Albert Florence being stripped naked; it is about the “presumption of innocence” being totally abandoned.

When the Ne-Cons declared on national TV that they intended to “murder” human beings they labeled “Terrorist” without a trial or charges being filed there was no “hue and cry from the public? Once they were allowed to legalize the killing of “non-citizens (still human beings) without a trial “all bets were off!”

At first they (Ne0-Cons) assured us only non-citizens would be murdered without trial; we all know how long that lasted.

Now many here are outraged and shocked because a few zealous want-to-be NAZI Cops took a peep up Albert’s ass?

Also, Albert Florence stated that he being “a man’s man” suffered more than most? Could some one explain to me what the fuck is a “man’s man?

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By faith, April 4, 2012 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

gerard, your is a terrifying and very well communicated argument.  Our nation’s
leadership and judiciary seems to have run amuck.  And we, the people, seem to
be sheep.  I never could understand why the Germans did not revolt in WWII.  I
think that I am beginning to see the light…

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By Jim Yell, April 4, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Strip Search is and has been used as a way to intemedate even innocent citizens. We are supposed to have the right to demand explaination of why the police are stopping or searching us and yet too frequently this is an excuse for law enforcement to harrass and embarress people.

In prison it is used to punish people who haven’t done anything to warrent a search, just pissed off the authorities. It is wrong it is demeaning it should be against the law.

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By heterochromatic, April 4, 2012 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

anybody care to take the position that it’s unconstitutional and outrageous that all
VISITORS to jails are subject to search or is that of no relevance?

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, April 4, 2012 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Treating and handling all people who allegedly committed a minor crime as one who committed a major crime seems insanely myopic to me? The concept of Innocent until proven guilty seems to have become a thing of the past unless you happen to have committed murder in Floria?

Again, I see this as a way of intimidation to make people think twice about protesting, because spraying peaceful protesters in the face with mace seems so police state like.  Maybe protesters can protest naked and let the cops give them the anal probes before they protest on the street.

By the way, I ask the Supremo court if corporations are people too, I want to see one of them as people too; sent to jail and get a free anal probe!

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By Wildeye, April 4, 2012 at 7:21 am Link to this comment

Yes, because being arrested automatically makes you suspect as a drug-smuggling mule for prison gangs. Of course, it’s probably easier to just bribe the guards but nobody wants to see them naked.

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By heterochromatic, April 4, 2012 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

Silver——what’s unacceptable about the decision? 

the strip searches of people who are about to be put in cages and surrounded by a
population of mostly dangerous criminals is unacceptable to you?


it’s only one more piece of the denial of liberty that being arrested and jailed

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By Margaret Currey, April 4, 2012 at 5:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This man had paid his fine and had a document to prove it, still they sent him to jail for six days for a fine that was paid. 

Of course this would not have happened if the person had not been an african american because there is still driving while black, walking while black, and just being black.

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By Silverado_Lady, April 4, 2012 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

This decision is UNACCEPTABLE and needs to be
overturned ASAP.
IF the mom of one of these justices had to experience
this kind of assault, bet these putz’would want a ‘do
over’ then.

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Non-Compassionate Liberal's avatar

By Non-Compassionate Liberal, April 4, 2012 at 12:22 am Link to this comment

You can blame this decision on those darn conservative justices—oh, and, by the way—with a healthy push from the “liberal” Obama administration:
“The Obama administration is siding with the prisons in the case and urging the court to allow a blanket policy for all inmates set to enter the general prison population.
‘When you have a rule that treats everyone the same,’ Justice Department lawyer Nicole A. Saharsky argued, ‘you don’t have folks that are singled out. You don’t have any security gaps.’”

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

that’s it, Surf… it’s gotta be that the 5 Justices who voted not to disallow strip
searches were all lesbians being laser-blackmailed by lascivious jailers opposed to
privacy at all times and places!

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

olenska—- that’s about as stupid as stupid gets…..and whether you’re satisfied or
not is pretty damn unimportant.

why don’t you try to explain what’s outrageous about the decision rather than wax
wroth, perfessor?

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By olenska, April 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

I want to see all five of those justices stripped naked on national television and forced to bend over and “spread their cheeks” to all of America. No other punishment for this outrage will satisfy me.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, April 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Well it seems one more step into intimidation for simple non violent protesting. I expect the cops to pick the foxiest chicks and the gay cops to pick the hunky guys, I see this just one step away from the humiliation of rape, whats next, please step into the oven?

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By gerard, April 3, 2012 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

...(quote)“Justice Kennedy responded that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” He noted that Timothy McVeigh, later put to death for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was first arrested for driving without a license plate. “One of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93,” Justice Kennedy added.”(unquote)
  Talk about non sequiturs!  Amazing!  And from the mind of a trained legal authority! So driving without a license plate requires a strip search? And any person speeding may be planning to bomb the Empire State Bldg?  P-U-L-L-E-E-E-Z-E!
  This is precisely the psychology which the “surveillance state” wishes to universalize. You are guilty because we think you may be guilty and you must turn youself inside out trying to prove that you are innocent—though we have plans already set in motion to disprove even that if necessary. We will simply pass another law to cancel out the previous law which guaranteed your being judged innocent.  It’s all up to us who you are!

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By Roger Lafontaine, April 3, 2012 at 7:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We ought to strip search the Supreme Court. I think they’re carrying a contraband constitution - one that deprives Americans of their rights.

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By BrilliantBill, April 2, 2012 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

One more victory for the fascist state.

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By Rodney, April 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s sad when you know the outcome even before the case
goes to trial. 5-4 decisions are the norm for this
court. What a sham!

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By Blueokie, April 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

Of course this decision isn’t a surprise given the Court’s propensity to illustrate Benjamin Franklin’s saying.  Especially if its against a poor, minority population.

My objection is too the political implications, once again, of “votes on party lines”.  As should be obvious to anyone paying attention, any Senator has a veto on any Executive nominee.  It was never going to be a surprise to anyone how the “Gang
of Five” would conduct themselves as Justices, for the Dimocraps to constantly play victim of the Court of whose creation they are equally complicit, is the worst kind of political pandering.

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