Routine Strip-Searches Upheld for Intake into Jail’s General Population

In Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Court held that correctional institutions may conduct routine strip-searches of all detainees upon admittance to the general population of the institution, even those arrested for the most minor offenses. The decision also concluded that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment. However, the Court’s decision did not address the question of whether such searches would be constitutionally justifiable without reasonable suspicion if the detainee were not to be admitted to general population, leaving open the possibility of limitations on such searches where alternatives to placement in the general population exist. This article reviews the facts of the case and analyzes the Court’s opinion. It highlights the need for clear legislative or regulatory guidance delineating the circumstances under which strip-searches may be conducted. The article emphasizes the need for a solution that will provide institutional security crucial to the safety of all inmates and staff, while minimizing the need to conduct searches that may traumatize detainees.