The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision last week that correctional facilities across the country could conduct full-body strip searches of all inmates, regardless of how minor the alleged offense. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, in his capacity as the president of the American Correctional Association, praised the decision. The City Paper spoke to him about local implications of the ruling.
What exactly does the Supreme Court decision outline?
Before 9/11, the whole strip-searching thing by the federal courts seemed to be leaning more toward the arrestee, making it more difficult for institutions. Post 9/11, the court cases seemed to be more in line or in favor with the correctional needs of the institution to make searches. So we’ve been anxious to get this question answered.
What is Davidson County’s policy on searching people being admitted to jail?
When people are booked and arrested, they are obviously in their street clothes, and we have them undress behind a curtain and hand us their clothes. It’s not a strip search, it’s not a search of anything, but it is an improvement over the way ... when I came here 20 years ago, you left the person in their clothing, and Lord knows what all might be involved in that.
The [current] policy would allow the officers to perform strip-searching in the event that we had reasonable suspicion or knowledge of a person’s attempt to smuggle something into the institution.
Will the Supreme Court’s decision result in any changes here?
We’re not going to change our policy as a result of the court’s ruling, but it truly protects us when and if we were to implement a different system of searching. We’re not going to do that right away or have plans for it. But I think it needed to be done, it needed to be cleared up. All of us need to have a consistent application of how you search, when you search.