Justice Kennedy on Dignity and Social Cost in Florence v. Freeholders

October 12th, 2011

Strip searches! It’s a Jersey thing!

Here Justice Kennedy inquires about the cost of the strip searches to the individual dignity of prisoners–these are safety costs.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But I take it — I take it what we’re trying to do is to protect the individual dignity of the detainee. But it seems to me that you risk compromising that individual dignity if you say we have reasonable suspicion as to you, but not as to you. You are just setting us up. And you are setting the detainee up for a classification that may be questioned at the time, and will be seen as an affront based on the person’s race, based on what he said or she said to the officers coming in.


JUSTICE KENNEDY: So it seems to me that your rule imperils individual dignity in a way that the blanket rule does not.

This is quite similar to his reasoning in Brown v. Plata, focusing on the impact of overcrowding on the dignity of prisoners.