Your next encounter with law enforcement could be up close, personal, even naked

Imagine you forgot your license when you drove to Schnucks today; that you ran across the Quad naked last week, or that you forgot to put your seat belt on after you got back in the car.

Now imagine yourself in a prison, squatting and getting strip searched by a correctional officer.

Sure, those are minor offenses. You can still be taken to jail, though, and according to the latest Supreme Court ruling, you can be forced to strip, spread your cheeks, squat and cough without cause.

Maybe at that point, you’re thinking you would have been better off leaving streaking on the quad on your bucket list.

The Supreme Court explained that it really doesn’t have the expertise on how jails should be run, so it’s not really its place to limit the strip searching powers of the prison guards.

How thoughtful? I’d say it’s a little ironic. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker calls it, “an odd admission after a week in which certain Justices have seemed sure of themselves to a fault.”

The ruling comes from the 2005 arrest of Albert Florence who, dare I suggest, was pulled over because he was black (and apparently speeding).

Florence’s wife was actually the one driving, but Florence was taken to a local New Jersey jail because there was a warrant out for his arrest.

The warrant dated back to a record of an unpaid fine, but those records were incorrect.

Because the state trooper didn’t seem to believe that Florence had previously paid the fine, Florence spent the next week in two different jails. During that time, he was subjected to two different strip searches , just in case he managed to acquire some kind of contraband when he transitioned from jail to jail.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said that 13 million people get admitted into jails every year, and that “jails are often crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous places.”

Before we mandate strip searches for people eating food on the subway, maybe we should consider the realities of our prison system.

Why are people with minor offenses increasingly being admitted to jails? Or why do these “crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous” conditions continue to exist? How can we blanket those who commit minor offenses with those who are committing far graver crimes? Why do we have the highest number of prisoners in the world when we only represent about 5% of the population?

Justice Kennedy suggested that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.”

Justice Kennedy brought up Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing and was first arrested for driving without a license plate. He also mentioned one of the 9/11 terrorists who was arrested for speeding two days before he hijacked Flight 93. It’s unclear to me how these instances justify strip searches on everyone and anyone that’s admitted to jail.

Did anyone find the plans for the Oklahoma City bombing in one of McVeigh’s body cavities?

And are we now going to have to strip search everyone who is speeding because there’s a chance that one of them is planning on committing an act of terror?

I’m not a correctional officer and I don’t work in a jail. Maybe that means I don’t entirely understand the challenges of being in an environment where people may smuggle drugs, carry weapons or have some kind of infectious disease.

People admitted to jails are already subject to pat downs, metal detectors and showers with delousing agents.

Justice Stephen Breyer noted that there is limited empirical support that strip searches are going to be able to expose contraband that could not be found using “less intrusive means.”

If that piece of information doesn’t explain why strip searches aren’t particularly effective in that setting and why they shouldn’t be used on every one of those 13 million people admitted each year, I don’t know what does.

One thing is for sure, it’s definitely easy to sit up in a high lofty chair and remark on the deviance and dangerousness of some criminals.

It’s quite another to be squatting buck naked, being asked to turn about and expose yourself — in a dignified manner, of course.

_Nishat is a senior in LAS._