San Francisco non-violent inmate strip search policy upheld

Court decision overrules a 1984 standard that limited which new inmates could be searched


By Bob Egelko
The San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — San Francisco acted legally in strip-searching thousands of new jail inmates over a 21-month period, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, sparing the city from millions of dollars in potential damages and allowing the sheriff to reinstate a policy he suspended six years ago.

In a 6-5 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overruled the standard it had set in 1984, which most courts nationwide have since followed: that strip searches are justified only for inmates who are suspected of committing violent or drug-related crimes or of concealing contraband.

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