I don’t know about you, but I’m immensely relieved that a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court has just held that
(a) a person’s right to his or her person is inviolable (b) “Congress shall make no law respecting…the right of the people freely to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances”
(c) “officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.”
As you guessed, the correct answer is (c). Glad we’ve gotten that straight now. The author of the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy,
joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations.
About 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails, Justice Kennedy wrote.
Under Monday’s ruling, he wrote, “every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed.”
Justice Kennedy is concerned about the possibility that disease might be communicated from a new inmate to previous inmates, there being many millions of such persons. He wrote:
“the undoubted security imperatives involved in jail supervision override the assertion that some detainees must be exempt from the more invasive search procedures at issue absent reasonable suspicion of a concealed weapon or other contraband.”
“It is not surprising that correctional officials have sought to perform thorough searches at intake for disease, gang affiliation and contraband,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “Jails are often crowded, unsanitary and dangerous places.”
“There is a substantial interest,” he added, “in preventing any new inmate, either of his own will or as a result of coercion, from putting all who live or work at these institutions at even greater risk when he is admitted to the general population.”
The Fourth Amendment declares that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….” but Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia understand that this right is trumped by the right of those in jail or working there to be secure from threats that might conceivably be carried by new inmates.
We await Justice Kennedy’s forthcoming closely-reasoned opinions to the effect that
Congress may regulate Commerce…among the several States”
the law in its majesty forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges
(f) requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, since the buying of insurance does not constitute Commerce, the refusal of some to buy health insurance having absolutely no commercial effects on the millions who do buy health insurance and/or pay taxes to care for those without insurance who get sick.Return to Top