Following the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 132 S.Ct. 1510 (2012)—which held that the Constitution does not forbid suspicionless strip searches of minor offense detainees if they must be housed in the general population—the Eleventh Circuit took this narrow decision and extended it a step further. First en banc, Powell v. Barrett, 541 F.3d 1298 (11th Cir. 2008), and then reaffirming its decision, Powell v. Sheriff, 511 F. App’x 957 (11th Cir. 2013), the Eleventh Circuit adopted a per se rule that any detainee can be searched, even before charges are reviewed by a judge and even after a judge orders them to be released, simply because the jailer chooses to put them into general population.
The plaintiffs have filed a cert petition, asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision. Four organizations, including FJI, the Human Rights Defense Center, the National Police Accountability Project, and the Southern Center for Human Rights, have filed an amicus brief in support of the petition. The brief was authored by Christopher A. Wimmer of Emergent Legal in San Francisco. Hopefully it will help persuade the Court to step in, which will ultimately help ensure that jail detainees are still treated with dignity and respect.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ cert petition, declining to hear the case. Nonetheless, FJI will continue to fight for the rights of people detained in jails throughout Florida.