Collins & Collins, P.C. has been hearing stories describing plainly illegal strip searches at New Mexico prisons. Despite clear laws regarding the strict requirements of strip searches, and numerous successful lawsuits related to violations of those laws, illegal strip searches do still occur.
There are a number of important restrictions on strip searches, violations of which will give rise to 8th Amendment Claims under §1983.
No More Humiliating and Demeaning Than Necessary for Safety
Strip searches are to be no more humiliating or demeaning than necessary for the safety of the facility, its prisoners, guards and other personnel.
No More People than Necessary to Safely and Effectively Conduct a Strip Search
To avoid unnecessary humiliation and degradation of prisoners, the searches should use the minimum number of officers required to safely and effectively carry out the search. Depending upon the circumstances, the presence of other officers unnecessary to the search may be a violation of the 4th Amendment. The presence of personnel other than correctional officers or other personnel essential to the search would likely violate the 4th Amendment.
No Strip Searches by Officers of the Opposite Gender
Searches by or involving personnel of the opposite sex are considered unreasonable except in very limited emergency situations. On a related note, correctional officers of the opposite sex should not be observing inmates while nude (i.e. in the shower, while dressing).
Maximum Privacy Possible
Again, to avoid humiliation, embarrassment and degradation, strip searches should be conducted with the maximum level of privacy possible for a safe and effective search.
What to Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Subjected to an Illegal Strip Search
If it is a loved one in prison or jail, make sure to tell them that they must go through the grievance procedure from beginning to end or they will likely forfeit their right to file a civil rights claim. The first deadline in New Mexico Department of Corrections facilities is only 5 days from the illegal search. County and local prisons and jails may have their own grievance procedure that is different than the New Mexico Department of Corrections’ procedure. The rules and procedures of the specific jail or prison must be followed.
For those that have been released, there is no such requirement. Those folks should contact an attorney right away due to other deadlines.
Prisoners’ Rights | American Civil Liberties Union
Prisoners’ Rights | American Civil Liberties Union A culture of punishment, combined with race- and class-based animus, has led the United States to rely on incarceration more heavily than any other country in the world does. The politicization of criminal justice policy and a lack of evidence-based assessment result in a one-way ratchet in which law and policy grow ever more punitive. The human and financial costs of mass incarceration are staggering, and the burden falls disproportionately on the poor and people of color. However, the recent fiscal crisis and years of falling crime rates have combined to create the best opportunity in decades to challenge our nation’s addiction to incarceration.
$8.5M settlement of strip-search suit – UPI.com
$8.5M settlement of strip-search suit – UPI.com “It’s bad enough to get arrested knowing you’re innocent, without having to then get humiliated and degraded afterward,”
Complaints of overcrowding plague Springer women’s prison – The Santa Fe New Mexican: Local News
Complaints of overcrowding plague Springer women’s prison – The Santa Fe New Mexican: Local News SPRINGER — At first glance, Housing Unit 1 at the Springer Correctional Center looks like the scene of a giant slumber party. Rows of bunk beds are filled with women fixing one another’s hair, chatting in groups and nibbling on snacks. The air is steamy and soap-scented from a steady stream of women passing back and forth through large rubber flaps that separate the sleeping area from a common shower facility.