SCOTUS ruling on strip searches will not change Madison Co policy | News
HUNTSVILLE, AL- Madison County Sheriff's Department Investigator Brent Patterson said corrections officers will not be making any big changes after the recent Supreme Court ruling on strip searches in detention facilities.
The ruling said jailers can strip search any inmate for any reason. They do not have to have probable cause to believe an inmate is bringing contraband into the jail. Even traffic law violators can be strip searched.
Patterson said just because the Supreme Court said they are allowed to strip search every inmate, does not mean they will do it.
"We're going to go by our policy, and our policy says if someone is arrested they will be strip searched if they go into general population. That's how we're going to do it. If they go into general population where they're held or they're detained, we will strip search them," Patterson said. "Safety is our number one concern."
Officials said not every inmate is held in the general population area of the jail. People arrested for lower offenses like traffic violations or failure to appear in court likely won't be subject to a strip search.
Patterson said inmates can sometimes bring in dangerous contraband like weapons, drugs, or cell phones. He added, the goal is to keep everyone behind the jail walls safe, including the prisoners.
"We will use a common sense approach to every instance that takes place," said Patterson.
Tipton County, TN changed their policy the day after the Supreme Court ruling. Their jail will now strip search every person who is arrested, no matter what the alleged offense.
Critics believe the ruling violates the privacy of those in police custody.
A New Jersey man brought the case before the Supreme Court after jailers strip searched him twice when he was arrested for an allegedly outstanding traffic fine six years ago. In reality, Albert Florence had paid the fine. Florence was arrested due to a clerical error by the court system.
The Supreme Court decision fell five to four in favor of passing the law. The court found the two jails in the case, "struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the [correctional] institution."
Justice Anthony Kennedy was among those who voted to pass the ruling. Kennedy believes there is more harm in protecting an exception, like Albert Florence's case, then to make a blanket ruling that allows searches of all people brought into a jail.
"Exempting people arrested for minor offenses from a standard search protocol thus may put them at greater risk and result in more contraband being brought into the detention facility," said Justice Anthony Kennedy. "This is a substantial reason not to mandate the exception [Florence] seeks as a matter of constitutional law."
The five justices that supported this decision were Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
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