Saturday, April 07, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #51 - Part 4

Outrage of the Week: strip searches and security theater

I expect you've heard about this, but there's an aspect to it which you may not have heard about.

The Supreme Court just ruled by the usual, ideologically-driven 5-4 split that it is okay for prisons to strip search people sent to jail for any offense - even for something as minor as an unpaid parking ticket.

Anything that gets you admitted into the general prison population can involve a strip search. Again, this is for an arrest. It is without having been convicted of any crime. Jail officials don't even have to suspect that you're carrying contraband. They can do it, well, just because they can.

The case arose from the arrest of a man named Albert Florence in New Jersey in 2005. He was in the passenger seat; his wife was driving. She was pulled over for speeding. A records search revealed outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine.* This had happened to him before, so he made a practice of carrying with him proof that the fine had been paid. He showed it to the cops. They didn't care.

Florence was arrested and wound up in jail for a week, during which time he was twice subjected to strip searches: once when he was first sent to jail and again when he was transferred to another jail - even though he had just come from a different jail.

Now, it's the law of the land. It's A-OK with SCOTUS.

But here's why this is here as Outrage of the Week: Writing for the Court, Anthony Kennedy argued that "admission of inmates creates numerous risks" to everyone involved, prison staff, other prisoners, even the person being brought it. There's all this risk, even for the person arrested. In other words, part of this argument is that you are being strip searched for your own good. This is for your benefit.

But this is the real reason I bring this up. In justifying strip searching people, cavity searching people - when Florence was brought into prison, he was told to "squat and cough" and "spread 'em" - and in justifying this, Anthony Kennedy actually - I am not joking - he invoked 9/11.

Even after all these years, saying "9/11" still justifies everything. Every intrusion into our rights, every invasion of our privacy, every indignity visited on us. It's all okay because - "9/11."

And that is the Outrage of the Week.


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