For Immediate Release
ACLU Files Brief On Behalf Of Former New Jersey Attorneys General Challenging Blanket Strip Searches At State Jails
Amicus Brief Says Practice Is Unconstitutional And Causes Needless Humiliation
WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ)
today filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of five former New
Jersey attorneys general opposing the blanket strip search policies of
the Burlington County Jail and Essex County Correctional Facility. The
jails' policies currently require strip searches for people charged
with but not convicted of minor offenses, and even when there is no
reasonable suspicion that an arrestee possesses contraband.
"Strip searching every detainee is
unconstitutional, it contributes little to jail security and it creates
an intolerable risk of subjecting detainees to needless humiliation,"
said Ed Barocas, Legal Director for the ACLU-NJ. "There is no
legitimate reason for these types of policies to exist and they must be
The amicus brief, filed in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on behalf of former New Jersey
Attorneys General Robert J. Del Tufo, Deborah T. Poritz, John J. Farmer
Jr., Peter C. Harvey and Zulima V. Farber, defends the privacy and
Fourth Amendment rights of Albert Florence.
Florence filed a lawsuit in 2005
charging officials at the two jails with unconstitutionally subjecting
him to two strip searches despite a lack of reasonable suspicion. The
searches followed his erroneous arrest during a 2005 traffic stop for a
fine he had already paid. He was ordered during the searches to squat
naked and, while standing in front of prison guards, to lift his
"Being forced to strip naked is
humiliating, and people charged with minor crimes shouldn't be strip
searched unless there's a reason to think they're hiding something,"
said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison
Consistent with legal precedent,
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez ruled in February 2009
that the strip search of Florence violated the Constitution. However,
officials representing both Burlington and Essex Counties appealed the
decision, placing the case before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
The former attorneys generals' brief
notes that Judge Rodriguez's decision prevents strip searches only for
non-indictable offenses that do not involve contraband and when there
is no reason to suspect contraband. Additionally, his decision does not
preclude strip searches following visitation.
Previous federal rulings have also
banned strip searches of low-level arrestees unless jail officials can
prove reasonable suspicion that the inmate may have drugs, guns or
other illegal contraband. The standard of reasonable suspicion still
allows prison officials to use broad discretion in determining if a
strip search is necessary.
A copy of the amicus brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/
Additional information about ACLU-NJ is available online at: www.aclu-nj.org
Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/prison
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.