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Strip Searching in the 21st Century
Thinking About Corrections


On April 2, 2012, the US Supreme Court announced an opinion concerning the issue of strip searches in correctional facilities.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling and supported the use of strip searches “to ensure that jails are not made less secure by reason of what new detainees may carry in on their bodies”.  

Given the complexity of the issue, and the thoroughness of the opinion from the Supreme Court, it is not sufficient as a corrections professional to rely on just media reports or second-hand knowledge before considering operational and  policy changes.

A prudent strategy is to gather as much information as possible, listen to responses from professional corrections organizations, and, of course, obtain information from knowledgeable legal advisors to ascertain the on-going implications of this recent Supreme Court ruling.

The first step is to read the entire opinion. 


No. 10–945. Argued October 12, 2011—Decided April 2, 2012

Download here

Here are some excerpts, with emphasis added, from the ruling:

Justice Kennedy for the Majority:

“Correctional officials have a legitimate interest, indeed a responsibility, to ensure that jails are not made less secure by reason of what new detainees may carry in on their bodies. Facility personnel, other inmates, and the new detainee himself or herself may be in danger if these threats are introduced into the jail population.”

“In addressing this type of constitutional claim courts must defer to the judgment of correctional officials unless the record contains substantial evidence showing their policies are an unnecessary or unjustified response to problems of jail security.”

Posted Wed, Apr 11 2012 8:46 AM by Anonymous


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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.