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Supreme Court to decide whether strip searches in prison illegal

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case that questions whether all people who enter the prison population should be strip searched. The justices are considering whether routine and invasive strip searches violate an arrested person's constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Prison guards search everyone who is admitted into jail, including people who are arrested on minor charges, such as traffic offenses or other misdemeanor charges. The man who brought the case had been arrested in New Jersey for failing to pay a traffic fine. He was strip searched at two different New Jersey jails in six days.

The man argues that it is a violation of his constitutional rights to search him for drugs or weapons without reasonable suspicion that he is hiding contraband.

The Obama Administration and attorneys representing the jails have said that the searches are needed in order to keep the jails safe. They say that even though a person may have committed a minor offense, it does not mean they are not smuggling something into the prison or have something dangerous on their person.

Attorneys for the plaintiff say that the searches violate the rights and dignities of incoming inmates. The justices asked questions about the searches to find out why and when they are conducted and how necessary each is versus how much it violates a person's privacy rights.

Source: Reuters, "Supreme Court considers jail strip searches," James Vicini, Oct. 12, 2011

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