Strip Search Policies |Apply to Juveniles

     (CN) – Juveniles who have been placed under arrest may be subjected to a strip search without any individual suspicion that they possess contraband, the Third Circuit ruled.
     J.B., a 12-year-old, threatened to kill two younger neighborhood girls who were teasing him, while brandishing a 5-inch-long homemade knife.
     The boy was charged with making terroristic threats and harassment.
     Due to the seriousness of the charges, his parents Thomas and Janet Benjamin surrendered him to the police station.
     J.B. was then taken to Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center where he was subject to a strip search upon arrival.
     The employee who processed his intake instructed J.B. to remove his clothes, bend over, spread his buttocks and cough.
     The child stayed at the facility for three days, until his hearing, after which he was released to his parents.
     He later entered into a consent decree, and agreed to write a letter of apology to his victims, along with other probation requirements.
     The Benjamins sued Lancaster County in 2012, claiming that their son’s strip search violated his constitutional rights.
     In Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, the Supreme Court ruled that all arrestees may be subject to a strip search when committed to a jail or detention center.
     The Third Circuit ruled Tuesday that Florence applies to juvenile detainees as well as adults.
     “We do not underestimate the trauma inflicted upon a youth subjected to a strip search. Yet, we must also acknowledge the realities of detention, irrespective of age,” U.S. District Judge Julio Fuentes said, writing for the three-judge panel.
     The same security interests present in Florence are present at juvenile detention centers, and the state additionally has an “enhanced responsibility to screen for signs of disease, self-mutilation, or abuse in the home,” the 25-page opinion said.
     The court also noted that a blanket strip-search policy, as opposed to one based on individualized suspicion, ensures that arrestees are treated equally, and that searches are not based on race, sex, or any other characteristic – including age.
     “We must disagree with plaintiffs’ assertion that the Supreme Court contemplated an exception for juvenile detainees,” Fuentes said. “Given that the security risks are similar irrespective of whether the facility hosts adults or juveniles and that an individualized inquiry proves unworkable for both, we do not believe the Supreme Court contemplated such an exception.”

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