Until the late s, it was a foregone conclusion that jail officers could strip search all prisoners to further the security of the jail and the safety of staff and prisoners. Court of Appeals. Supreme Court. No body cavities are penetrated physically or visually. Observations are simply made of breasts and external genital and anal areas. As the Court of Appeals described the searches:.
A strip search is a practice of searching a person for weapons or other contraband suspected of being hidden on their body or inside their clothing, and not found by performing a frisk search , by requiring the person to remove some or all of his or her clothing. The search may involve an official performing an intimate person search and inspecting their personal effects and body cavities mouth, vagina, anus etc. A strip search is more intrusive than a frisk and requires legal authority.
The true extent of the toll
On March 31, , women allege that they were marched from their rooms to an open gym. With no warning and no time to prepare, they were ordered to strip naked, forced to lift their breasts, and commanded to turn around, bend over, and present themselves to a visual body and cavity search, according to a federal complaint. Many of them were in open view of other women and men. As the women stood naked, shoulder to shoulder with other women, people milling about began humiliating and mocking them : for their smells, for their bodies, for their nakedness, all believed to be fair game. Women who were menstruating were forced to remove their tampons and sanitation pads in public. They were forced to stand in their own blood.
A certified class action lawsuit asserted that in female inmates at an Illinois prison were subjected to strip searches during a training exercise for cadet guards. The women were compelled to stand nude, almost shoulder to shoulder with other prisoners in an area where they could be observed by others not conducting the searches, including male officers. Inmates who were menstruating allegedly had to remove their sanitary protection in front of others, were not given replacements, and some got blood on their bodies, clothing, and the floor. The naked inmates also were required to stand barefoot on a floor dirty with menstrual blood and raise their breasts, lift their hair, turn around, bend over, spread their buttocks and vaginas, and cough. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on Fourth Amendment claims because prior Seventh Circuit precedent held that a visual inspection of a convicted prisoner is not subject to analysis under that amendment. A jury returned a defense verdict on an Eighth Amendment claim. A federal appeals court affirmed, once again stating that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to visual inspections of convicted prisoners.