Feeds

Busted in the US? 'Drop your trousers, sir'

Supremes allow strip search for any offense – nuns too

High performance access to file storage

Again displaying their infinite law-and-order wisdom, the US Supreme Court has ruled that anyone arrested for any offense, however innocuous, can be strip-searched, even if there's no suspicion that they are concealing contraband.

"Every detainee who will be admitted to the general [jail or prison] population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, traditionally the swing vote between the court's four conservative and four liberal justices.

Swinger Kennedy swung right in this case, writing the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 decision in "Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington et al." (Note: no mention was made of what those Freeholders were, uh, holding...)

"Maintaining safety and order at detention centers requires the expertise of correctional officials," Kennedy wrote, "who must have substantial discretion to devise reasonable solutions to problems."

The courts made their ruling despite an amicus curiae brief filed by the American Bar Association which pointed out – among many other arguments – that "various multilateral treaties" to which the US is a party forbid "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners.

The ABA also notes that Albert Florence, who brought the original suit, was stripped-searched twice, once in private when "the supervising officer inspected Mr. Florence's mouth, tongue, armpits, buttocks, and genitals," and a second time when "he was forced to strip off his clothes in a shower area with a group of four other prisoners, all of whom were required to open their mouths, lift their genitals, and 'squat and cough' in plain sight of one another."

Florence, by the way, was arrested when his wife was pulled over for speeding (he was a passenger, and his son was in the back seat), and a check of his record showed an unpaid fine for an earlier offense. That record-check was wrong – the fine had been paid – but Florence spent a week in jail anyway, where he underwent the two strip searches.

"I consider myself a man's man," Florence told The New York Times last year. "Six-three. Big guy. It was humiliating. It made me feel less than a man. It made me feel not better than an animal."

Florence, who is a finance exec for a car dealership, is black – although we're not arguing that it was merely his race that led to his treatment, nor did he.

After all, as Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent to the majority ruling, additional amicus curiae briefs revealed that strip searches have been inflicted upon citizens collared for driving with a noisy muffler or a busted headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell – even for violating a dog-leash law.

Breyer also wrote of "a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years, who was arrested for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration," who was strip-searched.

This last example argues against the majority's assertion that an unbridled use of strip searches for any offense and without the requirement for suspicion is necessary to detect gang tattoos, weapons, or drugs.

On second thought, as a Catholic elementary school graduate, your Reg reporter well remembers those long-ago nuns. A crafty lot, they were. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.