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Entries in Strip Searches (9)

Wednesday
Jun202012

Boy Strip-Searched at School, Mom Outraged

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAMPSON COUNTY, N.C.) -- A North Carolina mother is furious after an assistant principal strip-searched her 10-year-old son after he was accused of stealing $20 from a classmate.

Clarinda Cox told North Carolina TV station WRAL that the assistant principal at Union Elementary school, Teresa Holmes, ordered her son, Justin, to remove his shoes, jeans and shirt, leaving him in his boxers and a T-shirt.

No one from the school contacted her about the accusations or the search. She said she found out about the incident when her son came home and appeared upset, Cox said.

Holmes acknowledged searching the boy on June 1, but in a statement she said that when $20 fell from a female classmate’s pocket in the cafeteria, “seven or eight” students saw Justin dive to pick it up.

“I walked up to Justin and told him that if he had the money it would be better to just give it to me because if not I would have to search him. Justin said that he did not have the money and to ‘search me,’” Holmes also said in the statement.

Holmes said she called a male janitor to witness the search in her office. Justin was made to remove his shoes, socks, jeans and shirt. The items were checked thoroughly before they were returned to him. She also acknowledged running her hands “outside of the waistband of his boxers.”

“At this point, I knew that Justin did not have the money. I sat in front of him telling him that I was sorry that I had to search him. I again explained that as a school administrator, I had the authority to search him because two teachers thought he had the money as well as seven or eight students,” she wrote.

In the statement she also accused Justin of having told “some lies” in the past. The $20 bill was later found on the floor of the cafeteria, although Holmes wrote that it hadn’t been there when she and Justin left to go to her office.

In the statement, Holmes said she encouraged Justin to “build a good name” for himself, and that the witness also “added some words of wisdom” for the boy. Holmes also wrote that she hugged Justin.

ABC News could not reach school officials or Clarinda Cox for comment on Tuesday evening.

In an interview with the Fayetteville Observer newspaper, Cox said Justin had helped the girl pick up the $20 that she had dropped. The girl later said the money was missing, Cox told the newspaper.

A Sampson County school district spokeswoman told WRAL that Cox should have been notified of the search, but maintained that Holmes was within her rights to search Justin, even though she “may have been overzealous in her actions.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr032012

Supreme Court Upholds Jail Strip Searches

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Strip searches will remain a regular part of the jailing process in the U.S. after the conservative majority of the Supreme Court voted five to four on Monday that people can be "required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed" for literally any offense.

In its ruling, the high court determined that the 13 million people admitted to jails annually must submit to a strip search if required, regardless of what crime they've allegedly committed, even when there's no suspicion that they're carrying contraband such as weapons or drugs.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that courts cannot criticize the policies of corrections officials who have to be concerned with public health and information about gang affiliations in addition to weapons and drugs being possibly smuggled into jails.

The case centered around the 2005 arrest of New Jersey resident Albert W. Florence, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant based on an unpaid fine that, as it turned out, was paid.

Florence was stripped search in two jails in two counties and made to stand naked in front of a guard who told him to move intimate parts of his body.  Florence later said, "It was humiliating.  It made me feel less than a man."

Speaking for the dissenting judges, Justice Stephen Breyer of the court's liberal wing, said strip-searches were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy" and should be used only when there is cause to do so.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec122011

Senator Calls for Passenger Advocate After TSA Strip-Search Claims

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In response to recent claims of elderly women being strip-searched by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners and another woman being stopped because of a colostomy bag, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday called for the creation of a passenger advocate at airports who could immediately act and respond to concerns related to screenings.

In making the announcement, Schumer said, “While the safety and security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading and potentially humiliating experience.”

The TSA has denied the strip-search claims, saying it does not conduct those type of searches.  It also says it is already planning its own advocacy service.  TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee says the agency is planning to establish a toll-free hotline in January that passengers can call if they feel they need assistance.

Lee says the service will, “give passengers direct access to guidance and information specific to persons with disabilities or medical conditions" prior to them flying.  The spokesperson said TSA screeners are also regularly trained on how to handle passengers with disabilities or medical conditions.

Schumer, however, wants an advocate in place at airports to intercede in person on the passenger’s behalf.  New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris has teamed up with him in calling for a passenger advocate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec072011

Two More Grandmas Say They Were Strip-Searched at JFK Airport

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two more elderly women with medical conditions have come forward claiming they were strip-searched by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 29, bringing to three the number of senior passengers who allege they were forced to remove their clothes at the New York airport last Tuesday.

Ruth Sherman, 88, told ABC News she was about to board a 3:30 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Florida after visiting her family for Thanksgiving when two female TSA officers ordered her into a private room.  The great-grandmother of seven has worn a colostomy bag since undergoing cancer surgery two years ago.  She claims the agents noticed the bulge from the bag and that prompted the additional screening.

According to Sherman, the TSA agents told her to enter the screening room and demanded to know what the bulge was.  Sherman said she was embarrassed and annoyed that even after she explained what it was they asked her to drop her jogging pants and show them.

Linda Kallish, a 66-year-old diabetic, claims she too was strip-searched at JFK on Nov. 29.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, Kallish, who was bound for Ft. Lauderdale via Jet Blue on a 1 p.m. flight, had a glucose monitor that checks her blood sugar every five minutes strapped to one leg and an insulin pump strapped to the other.  A female TSA officer allegedly asked her into a private room after setting off the metal detector.  Kallish says she was ordered to remove her pants in order to demonstrate both devices.

The women's claims come just days after Lenore Zimmerman alleged she was strip searched while trying to catch the 1 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Ft. Lauderdale.

Zimmerman said security whisked her away without explanation after she asked to forgo the full-body scan, fearing it might interfere with the heart defibrillator she was wearing.  She told ABC News that she was asked to pull down her slacks and underwear with no explanation or apology.  She missed her 1 p.m. flight to Ft. Lauderdale.

TSA did not immediately respond to ABC News requests for comments about the incidents.  A TSA blog said that "TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols," and also said that Zimmerman was not strip searched.  The TSA declined to answer a question from the Orlando Sentinel about whether there were instances when passengers were required to remove clothing.

Law enforcement officials confirmed to ABC News that the women were strip-searched by TSA agents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec052011

TSA Apologizes to Granny Who Claims She Was Strip-Searched

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Transportation Security Administration says it has apologized to an 85-year-old New York woman for her “unpleasant screening experience,” but denies her claim that she was strip-searched.

The incident began when Lenore Zimmerman went to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last Tuesday to catch a JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale.  Zimmerman uses a walker and avoids the screening machines because of her pacemaker. She requested a pat down for that reason, and instead she says she was taken to a private room and was shocked when she was asked to take off her pants and other clothes.

The TSA issued a statement saying, “Private screening was requested by the passenger.  It was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes.”

On Sunday, the TSA issued a second statement saying it, “contacted the passenger to apologize that she feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, however, TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols and a strip search did not occur in this case."

Reached at her winter home in Florida, Zimmerman reacted to the TSA response by telling the New York Daily News, “I say they’re lying.  They’re doing it to protect their butts."

The grandma says she really doesn’t remember if the TSA called to apologize, saying she’s been so upset she’s been taking sleeping pills.

When asked if she accepts the TSA apology, Zimmerman told the Daily News, “Yes, I may sue them anyway because it was a very traumatic experience.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec042011

Strip-Searched Grandma Says TSA Removed Her Underwear

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An 84-year-old New York grandmother says she was “mortified” after being strip-searched by TSA agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport last week.

Lenore Zimmerman of Long Island said she was on her way to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when security whisked her away to a private room without explanation after she asked to forgo the full-body scan, fearing it might interfere with her defibrillator.

“They took me into a private room and pulled down my slacks and pulled down my underwear” without explanation or apology, Zimmerman told ABC News.

“I said, you know, I’ve been coming down for Florida for 10 years and I’ve always been patted down but I’ve never been strip-searched, why I am being strip-searched now? … They had no answer,” Zimmerman said.

When she tried to lift a lightweight walker off her lap, the metal bars banged against her leg, cutting her.

“I’m on a blood thinner and I bled like a pig so they called an ambulance and I said, ‘please don’t take me to the hospital, just bandage me up,’” she said.

The TSA called a medic, but the process took so long that Zimmerman missed her 1 p.m. flight and had to wait more than two hours to catch the next one, she said.

But the TSA said no strip search was conducted and proper procedures were followed.

“While we regret that the passenger feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, TSA does not include strip searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case,” the TSA said in a statement about the incident.

A review of closed circuit TV found that Zimmerman arrived at the ticket counter at 12:19 p.m. for her flight, which was scheduled for a 1 p.m. departure, but that actually left early 12:50 p.m.

The video showed her entering the checkpoint line in a wheelchair with her walker in her hand, according to the TSA. When she got to the screening equipment, she had a conversation with the TSA officer, and after a conversation she appeared to opt out of the advanced image technology screening equipment in favor of a pat-down, the TSA said.

When Zimmerman and two female officers left the private screening room, it appeared from the video that nothing unusual had happened, according to the TSA. The wheelchair attendant assisted her in leaving the checkpoint area for the gate.

But Zimmerman wants an apology.

“It’s humiliating, and it was ridiculous. I mean, I’m telling you I weigh 103 pounds, I was in a walker, I’m going to be 85 in February, only me this could happen to,” Zimmerman said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Thursday
Oct132011

Supreme Court Struggles with Case on Prison Strip Searches

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court justices grappled Wednesday with the use of strip searches by prison officials for newly admitted inmates charged with minor crimes.

At issue is the case of Albert Florence, a New Jersey man who was mistakenly arrested, hauled to two different jails, stripped searched and released six days later after all charges were dropped.

Florence is suing the jails that detained him, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated when he was subjected to strip searching without a reasonable suspicion that he was bringing contraband into the jail.  He argues that detainees that are placed in the general prison population for minor offenses should not be subject to such an invasion of privacy.

During an hour-long discussion, the justices seemed to struggle with drawing a line between an inmate’s privacy rights and the interest prisons have to keep contraband out of the facilities.

Thomas C. Goldstein, a lawyer for Florence, said his client was directed at one jail to remove all his clothing, open his mouth, lift his tongue, hold out his arms, turn around and lift his genitals.  Goldstein called it an intrusion on his client’s “individual dignity” and said prison officials should only conduct such searches when they believe the inmate could be carrying contraband.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy wondered how prison officials could determine such a suspicion.

“It seems to me,” Kennedy said, “that you risk compromising … individual dignity if you say we have reasonable suspicion as to you, but not as to you. … You are setting the detainee up for a classification that may be questioned at the time and will be seen as an affront based on the person’s race, based on what he said or she said to the officers coming in.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if corrections officers would have to do research on intake into whether the inmate was dangerous.  Justice Kennedy was also concerned that some inmates who were at a jail for minor offenses might, in fact, appreciate the security of an “institution where everyone has been searched.”

Carter G. Phillips argued on behalf of the jails that held Florence.  He urged the Court to show deference to the “good faith judgment of our jailers.”

Justice Stephen Breyer asked Phillips about the fact that there are not a lot of statistics showing that minor offenders are carrying contraband into the jails.  Phillips said that it could mean that the fear of a search served as a deterrent.

The Obama administration is siding with the prisons in the case and urging the court to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees set to enter the general prison population.

“When you have a rule that treats everyone the same,” Justice Department lawyer Nicole A. Saharsky argued, “you don’t have folks that are singled out.  You don’t have any security gaps.”

The case should be decided in the next several months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Supreme Court: Are Prison Strip Searches Constitutional?

Dick Luria/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- It was bad enough that Albert Florence was hauled to jail by an officer who mistakenly thought there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. But Florence’s shock turned to humiliation at the prison when he was strip searched, transferred to another county jail, strip searched again and held for a total of six days until the matter was cleared up and charges against him were dismissed.

“The strip search was humiliating,” Florence says. “Degrading.”

After his release, Florence sued the two county jails that held him, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated when he was subjected to strip search without a reasonable suspicion that he was bringing contraband into the jail. Florence argued that detainees who are placed in the general prison population for minor offenses should not be subject to such searches.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear Florence’s case and discuss the balance between the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure and the security interests of prison facilities.

Carter G. Phillips, a lawyer representing the county jails, argues that courts should defer to the security interests of the prisons. He says the privacy interest of the incoming prisoner must yield to an “overriding security interest” of the jail to protect inmates and staff.

But Susan Chana Lask, Florence’s lawyer, says that the prisons should not treat those who have committed serious crimes in the same way as those who are there for minor offenses.

“You need to strip search the murderers, criminals and drug dealers,” she says, “those are the ones who are committing crimes.”

Florence’s story dates back to a 1998 conviction for a minor offense. He was late in paying the accompanying fine and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He eventually paid off the fine which should have cancelled the outstanding warrant.

But when his car was stopped for a driving violation in 2005, the officer could find no evidence in his computer that the fine had been paid. He arrested Florence, even though Florence showed him a copy of the paid receipt from the court.

Florence says in prison he was directed to remove all his clothing, then open his mouth and lift his tongue, hold out his arms and turn around, and lift his genitals.

Lower courts have split on whether reasonable suspicion is needed before strip searching an individual entering the prison population.

In 1979 the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.

But in recent years some courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees.

The Obama administration has filed a friend of the court brief in support of the jails involved in Florence’s arrest. In briefs it argued that the need for security in the jails outweighs the individual privacy rights regarding strip searches.

The government points out that the Federal Bureau of Prisons house more than 216,000 pretrial detainees and convicted inmates and subjects them all to visual body-cavity inspections before they can be placed in the general prison population.

“Prisons and jails are unique place[s] fraught with serious security dangers,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued in court papers, “where the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and other contraband poses a serious threat to inmate and officer safety and institutional security.”

Florence is excited the Justices will finally hear his case.

“It feels good,” he says, “because it’s been a long road filled with ups and downs, and finally the Court can set it all straight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep292011

Supreme Court Returns to Consider Health Care, GPS Technology, Strip Searches and More

United States Supreme Court(WASHINGTON) -- The highest court in the land is ramping up for its 2011 term, and facing some potentially monumental cases.

Looming over the start of the Supreme Court's term is the question of when the justices will hear a challenge to President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the constitutionality of which has been challenged by lower courts in 26 states. 

But the Court is already set to hear an interesting range of other cases, including law enforcement's use of global positioning systems, the government's policy of indecency on the broadcast airwaves and the constitutionality of strip searches for minor offenses. Here's a look at the docket's major cases:

The Affordable Care Act:

Lower courts are divided on the issue of whether the health care law's key provision -- the individual mandate forcing individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty -- is constitutional. On Wednesday night, the Obama administration asked the Court to review the case it lost in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because the government is asking the Supreme Court to step in and address a major act of Congress that has divided the lower courts, the Justices are expected to render a decision before the next election.

GPS and Law Enforcement:

In the court's most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade, the justices will weigh an individual's expectation of privacy against law endorsement's use of increasingly sophisticated technology to follow suspects on public property.

The case stems from the 2008 case in which Antoine Jones was convicted on drug charges. Law enforcement used a variety of techniques to link Jones to other co-conspirators and one technique was a or GPS device installed secretly -- without a valid warrant -- on a Jeep used by Jones in order to track his movements by satellite.

Broadcast Indecency:

The Supreme Court will also hear a challenge brought by broadcast television against the government's policy on indecency on the airwaves from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

At issue are the "fleeting expletives" uttered by celebrities such as Cher and Nicole Richie televised during primetime on Fox Television, as well as an episode of NYPD Blue on ABC which showed a woman's unclothed backside.

The Federal Communications Commission, charged with regulating indecency over public airwaves, ruled in both instances that the broadcasters had violated its policy.

In court briefs, the government defended the FCC's policy, arguing the "pervasiveness of foul language, and the coarsening of public entertainment in other media such as cable, justify more stringent regulation of broadcast programs so as to give conscientious parents a relatively safe haven for their children."

Strip Searches:

Lower courts have split on the issue as to whether reasonable suspicion is needed before strip searching an individual entering the prison population.

In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.

But in recent years, courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees. The Obama administration has filed a "friend of the court" brief arguing that the need for security in the jails outweighs the individual privacy rights regarding strip searches.

It points out that the Federal Bureau of Prisons houses more than 216,000 pretrial detainees and convicted inmates, and subjects them all to visual body cavity inspections before they can be placed in the general prison population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio