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Strip search ruling violates Americans’ rights
In a five-to-four decision last week, the Supreme Court decided to allow any arrested individual to be strip-searched, regardless of the degree of the offense.
The constitutionality of the decision is debatable, but the ruling represents an egregious offense against the rights of Americans. The case in question involved a man who was strip-searched despite having been cleared of the crime for which he was charged. The decision expands police rights against women, a group that is already subjected to coercion and occasional brutality—although there are many honorable officers, there is also the minority who would willingly abuse the power not only to strip search, but also make arrests with an allowance to strip search as a motivation. It also detracts from the long-held assumption of “innocent until proven guilty”—many who are arrested are not even on trial, yet they are immediately presumed to be dangerous and desperate enough to hide weapons, drugs, or other dangerous goods on their bodies.
Not only is this is an unnecessary and gross breach of the rights of a prisoner, but the arguments on which this decision was founded are negligible and completely irrelevant. The argument that strip searches are necessary to maintain order and security is unsubstantiated. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy noted that Timothy McVeigh, the infamous Oklahoma City bomber, was arrested for driving without a license plate. This example is irrelevant. Strip-searching would not have revealed McVeigh’s plans, but only whether or not he had an item in a body cavity. Strip-searching for security purposes is reasonable if it is for the sake of prison security, but it is completely illogical to argue that prisoners should be strip-searched for the safety of the population at large.
The presence of criminals within our population does not mean that we should all be treated as security threats. There is no argument that can excuse the treatment of traffic violators with the same severity as murderers. This decision, along with the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, is another step in the country’s disturbing march toward a police state.
If the Supreme Court concerns itself so greatly with our security, they should stop making it easier for police to target innocent individuals and instead work to reshape our broken, often racially discriminatory justice system. Physical strip-searching is no guarantor of security, but a population that knows its right to a fair trial is.