Jail Strip Searches: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Was Not a Train

Until the late 1970s, it was a foregone conclusion that jail officers could strip search all prisoners to further the security of the jail and the safety of staff and prisoners. Then in 1977, a federal District Court in New York ruled that visual body-cavity searches of prisoners in a federal pretrial detention facility were unconstitutional “absent probable cause to believe that the inmate is concealing contraband.”(1) Although the fact seems to have been lost on judges who ruled in later cases that have restricted strip searches of arrestees at booking, the district court actually “upheld the strip search procedure but prohibited [only] the body cavity searches, absent probable cause . . . .”

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Standard G02.04.01: Preparation of Meals

By Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director KEY ISSUES “Three hots and a cot!” Let me ask, is that really the standard? Are jails required to serve meals hot?  If so, how many?  Let’s add to this issue.  Unlike persons in the free world, inmates are dependent on jail staff to ensure that their nutritional needs are…

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Standard H 04.03.02: Elective Procedures

By Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director KEY ISSUES: Under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution1, jail administrators are required to provide inmates with “reasonably adequate” medical care.2   In 1976, the United States Supreme Court established the standard used by lower federal courts to review claims by prisoners of denial of medical care.  In…

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Standard J 07.03.01: Volunteer Qualifications and Screening

By Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director KEY ISSUES: Correctional institutions are constantly striving to provide meaningful opportunities for those incarcerated to rehabilitate and break the cycle of recividism.  Educational classes, treatment and religious programming, life skills and work release programs vary from facility to facility depending on available resources.  The use of volunteers and organizations…

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Standard E04.02.01: Privileged Mail

By Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director KEY ISSUES: According to the Supreme Court, one of the elements necessary to assist inmates’ access to courts is prohibiting jail staff from actively interfering with prisoners’ attempts to prepare legal documents1 or otherwise interfering with access by imposing unconstitutional barriers to access courts and counsel. Written correspondence represents…

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Standard P01.02.01 – General Right of Inmates to Marry While Incarcerated

By Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director KEY ISSUES: On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court announced a controversial decision, ruling that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry1.   The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban…

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