Blanket strip searches of incoming jail inmates are constitutional and necessary to prevent the smuggling of contraband into the detention centers, an en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling overturns a 3-judge panel’s decision that strip searches are so dehumanizing that they violate a person’s constitutional rights if conducted without good reason to suspect the individual is carrying drugs or weapons.
The ruling rejected one of several civil rights violations that antiwar protester Mary Bull and eight others alleged in their class-action lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco. The protesters alleged that they were mistreated by authorities when they were arrested during a November 2002 demonstration. The case still is headed for trial by jury in federal district court. For the majority, Judge Sandra Ikuta said the strip-search policy was “reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” She said the searches had produced hundreds of caches of drugs, money, shanks, knives, and other items that can pose risk to personnel and other inmates. Four separate opinions were filed by the 11 judges, including a dissent by four that said Bull was arrested at a peaceful protest, slammed to a concrete floor during booking, stripped and subjected to a body-cavity search, then left naked in a cell for 11 hours.