Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that strip searches of all incoming inmates does not violate the Fourth Amendment. This decision overturned a 1984 decision by the same court which limited strip searches to inmates accused of violent or drug related crimes. The Court upheld the strip search policy of San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey who enacted a policy of strip searches of all incoming inmates. Sheriff Hennessey claimed he enacted the new policy in response to the rising amounts of drugs and weapons being brought into his jail. Procedurally, the trial court had denied Sheriff Hennessey's Motion for Summary Judgment. By ruling that the policy did not violate the Fourth Amendment they reversed the trial court and granted Sheriff Hennessey's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court found that the policy is reasonable considering the nature of the prison system and the documented evidence of illegal drugs and weapons entering prisons.
What remains to be seen is what impact this decision and this policy of strip searches will have on the amount of drugs and weapons that enter Sheriff Hennessey's prison. In other words, is the problem with drugs and weapons a result of what is brought in by the inmates or what is brought in by visitors or employees of the Sheriff's Department?
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