Cross-Sex Strip Search Ruled Unconstitutional

A strip-searches by a prison guards has been ruled unconstitutional after an inmate awaiting trial described his search at the hands of a female guard as "a humiliating event."

In a 6-5 ruling, California' Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled opposite-sex searches unconstitutional "except in an emergency." The same ruling sets standards for nine Western states. While 6 of the judges found the search "unreasonable," there was dissent. "Judge N. Randy Smith said the cadet had conducted the search professionally and, although it was "unsavory to our sensibilities," the action met legal standards."

The ruling also seems like it could lead to confusion: should this only apply to heterosexual prisoners? Would a gay male guard be preferable? What about transgendered prisoners and guards? And at what point do such distinctions become arbitrary? What about those prisoners who for whatever reason might prefer a guard of the opposite sex? And in any event, to what extent will this affect operating procedures, which were presumably already designed to facilitate same-sex searches in most cases?

Many of the same questions — both of dignity and constitutionality — can be applied to TSA inspections. When does something become "degrading," in the court's words — and to what extent will the government respect that?

Cross-Sex Strip Searches Ruled Unconstitutional
[SFGate]
[Image via Shutterstock]