I have been strip searched over times — and I know these examinations are about degradation and control, not drug detection or security.
Each time I undressed in front of officers at York correctional institution, I shed another layer of dignity. My last one was as embarrassing as my first.
And I was never touched during any of them. Virtual strip search machines may have been banned by the Transportation Security Administration two years ago for use on passengers boarding airplanes, but those citizens had privacy rights; prisoners do not. Using this technology on someone in custody is legitimate and more respectful than its Luddite alternative of stripping naked.
Embarrassing strip searches
And in six-plus years of living in a facility that had one, I never heard of the Boss Chair being used. This is surprising, especially since strip searches are far less Embarrassing strip searches than any available technology.
I know they did for me as the lack of prison healthcare caused an uncontrollable rash on my legs that prevented me from shaving.
Many guards were more than happy conduct my strip searches minus the strip to avoid looking at my hairy appendages. It was lucky for them that I never packed any contraband.
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Strip searches have made some big catches, for sure, like the Florida inmate who was discovered to have tucked 30 items in his anus — including pills, a lip balm container and a CVS receipt. But those sightings are rare and can occur just as easily with a search technology which makes the humiliation and harm this practice causes no longer defensible. And this ritual makes inmates even more vulnerable to staff who might abuse their power during a search.
In early Embarrassing strip searches, three women filed suit after each was subjected to strip searches that ended in digital penetration, assaults that occurred when they went to Rikers Island jail as visitors.
One man said his strip search was so violative that his anus was bleeding. Just a few months ago, Hamilton County jail in Indiana decided to forego strip searching inmates entirely and instead has them step through a SecurePass.
Every facility can do it if they choose. In addition to preventing humiliation and trauma, especially for women who are survivors of previous sexual abuse, it would also bring every police station and correctional facility into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act for transgender inmates.
Just this fall, a court dealt the state of Maryland a blow when it ruled that the way it strip searched a transgender woman — using staff of both sexes — violated the law. Topics US prisons Opinion.
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