Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bend Over & Spread 'Em: It's Now The Law In This Great Land Of Ours

Your daughter is arrested for walking the family dog off its leash at a county park. She is taken into custody and before being jailed is strip searched. A guard instructs your daughter to disrobe. Her mouth, vagina and anus are then inspected for contraband while other guards leer at her and make jokes about how she trims her pubic hair.

Your son is arrested while driving on a county highway for having an unpaid littering ticket. A guard instructs your son to disrobe. His mouth and anus are then inspected for contraband while other guards laugh at him because he has a tattoo above his penis.

Are these the malevolent machinations of an authoritarian state? No, at least not yet, but strip searches no matter how minor the offense may be and strip searches even if officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband are now the law of the land following a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that further erodes the basic liberties that Americans once took for granted.

The ruling was by yet another 5-4 vote with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who joined the court's conservative wing in delivering a body blow to the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

Kennedy's rationale, which gives new meaning to judicial overreach, is that courts should not second guess prison officials who might consider not just the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs, but a suspect's possible gang affiliations and health. This from a court that has no difficulty second guessing other institutions that are a bulwark against violations of personal and civil rights.

Law enforcement arms of the federal government and 10 states forbid strip searches for minor violations, while such searches are in violation of international human rights treaties.

"Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," Justice Kennedy wrote, noting that about 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails. His ruling did not address body cavity searches, but neither did it prohibit them.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip-searches the majority allowed were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy" and should be used only when there was good reason to do so."

Obscured in the welter of reactions to the ruling is the fact that it offers a built-in opportunity for those misogynist Republicans who insist on dictating what women can and cannot do with their bodies: Why not have officials give your dog-walking daughter a thorough gynecological workup while she's being strip and body cavity searched.

A perfect twofer for folks on the hard right for whom individual rights are reserved only for them and their ilk.

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