Did jail strip search go too far? Supreme Court lets ruling stand.
A federal appeals court ruled that a woman's intimate search of a male inmate – which was filmed and watched by dozens – was unreasonable. The Supreme Court declined to take the case.
The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to examine a federal appeals court ruling that the strip search of a male detainee by a female guard in an Arizona jail was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The action lets stand a 6-to-5 ruling by the full Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco involving a search conducted by a female cadet at a jail run by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
The case comes at a time of heightened public awareness of intrusive searches as a condition of air travel, including intimate pat downs and technology capable of simulating a strip search. The case dismissed on Monday, however, took place in the context of a jail.
At issue was a 2004 search of Charles Byrd, a pretrial detainee, at a minimum security jail in Phoenix.
Mr. Byrd was one of 90 detainees ordered to submit to a unit-wide search for contraband and weapons. Byrd was told to remove his clothing except his boxer shorts, which were described as pink and comprised of very thin, revealing material. The searches took place four to six at a time. Some were conducted by cadets from the detention officer training academy. Present during the searches were an estimated 25 cadets, a number of training supervisors, and 10 to 15 uniformed guards. The procedure was also videotaped.
Byrd said in his lawsuit that he should not be subject to such an intrusive search by a female guard. He also charged that the female guard – later identified as Cadet Kathleen O’Connell – squeezed his genitals and kneaded his buttocks during the search.
Unlike a standard strip search, which involves visual inspection of the naked body, Byrd’s search was a cross between a pat-down search and a strip search. Rather than a visual inspection, Byrd’s search relied on the sense of touch to identify concealed weapons or contraband.
The cadet ran her hands over parts of Byrd’s body, including the most private parts of his body. The cadet estimated the search took 10 to 20 seconds; Byrd says it was closer to 60 seconds.