Feeds

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

Supremes allow strip search for any offense – nuns too

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.