The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday whether the Constitution places limits on strip-searches of people entering jails.
Albert W. Florence, New Jersey, was wrongly arrested for a supposedly unpaid fine that he had paid. Before things were sorted out, he was held in two county jails and strip-searched in each. Thomas G. Goldstein, one of Florence's lawyers, conceded before the Supreme Court that strip-searches of people entering jails are often appropriate if it is an arrest for a serious offense or if the people have a history of drug abuse. He argues that officials must have reasonable suspicion to perform a strip-search.
Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested he agreed with the reasoning behind searching everyone so jailers can't single out inmates on the basis of race or some other improper factor.
Last month three teenagers in Tennessee were strip-searched after they were arrested for walking across a neighbor's lawn. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was correct in saying that there is something unsettling about permitting humiliating searches such as after an arrest for kids who are "staying out after curfew."
It is an extraordinary intrusion on a person's dignity to conduct a strip-search and it should not be done in the cases of minor violations. The Supreme Court should restrict the use of strip-searches.