Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bend over, please

On Monday, in a 5-4 decision that was to be expected, the United States Supreme Court announced that it is subservient to jail guards in importance. So much for that separation of powers and checks and balances you learned about in government class.

As Scott Greenfield pointed out yesterday, Justice Anthony Kennedy informed the public that the Supreme Court is "in no position to second guess the judgments of corrections officers..." This is the same Court that has told school districts to admit all students regardless of race, the same Court that has told states they cannot kill an inmate if they can't follow their own protocols, the same Court that has told legislators that their latest law is unconstitutional. But, despite that, this Court feels the need to show deference to the guards at the county jail.

And, because the Supreme Court feels it cannot substitute its judgment for the judgment of a jail guard, anyone arrested for any offense, no matter how trivial, is now fair game for one of the most humiliating things a person can be subjected to - a strip search. Make no bones about it, getting arrested is one of the worst experiences a person can go through. Feeling the cuffs lock against the wrists, being forced into the back of a squad car, having to beg a friend or relative to post a bond.

The majority of arrests are for non-violent offenses. There's not much danger of a motorist arrested for driving while intoxicated shoving a weapon or dope up their butt in the few seconds before the officer comes to the window. The person arrested on an outstanding traffic warrant is not likely to be hiding any contraband in a body cavity. Yet, in the name of not missing the chance to humiliate anyone under arrest, the Supremes have declared that the jail guard can order those folks to strip, bend over and spread their cheeks.

It's bad enough watching the Supreme Court blindly accept a police officer's rationale for why he decided to infringe upon the bad guy's Fourth Amendment rights. It's obvious that the members of the Court are out of touch with what really goes on in the streets and parking lots of this country.

But what else should we expect from a government that says it's okay for the airport equivalent of mall cops to scope and grope people who want to board a plane? If it's okay for Joe Businessman then it's okay for the person who got pulled over after having a couple of drinks. It's all a downward spiral and we're just waiting to see who can make it to the bottom first.

Of course this decision certainly makes waiting on the Supremes' proclamation on the Affordable Health Care Act an interesting exercise. If the Court is going to defer to jail guards when it comes to strip searching everyone who's brought against their will into the county jail, how on earth will they justify striking down the individual mandate to purchase health insurance?

The jail guards aren't elected officials. Hell, some of them are fresh out of the academy. They haven't a clue as to what's constitutional or why. But, dammit, they know more about jail than the justices on the Supreme Court.

A cynic might say that the Supremes decided on the outcome of the case and then scrambled to figure out a rationale. And, it would appear that the only rationale the five in the majority could come up with was deferring to the experience of the jailers.

Nothing short of pathetic.

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