Albert Florence’s Strip-Search Case Reaches Supreme Court
By Erline Aguiluz on April 7, 2011 9:07 AM | No TrackBacks
Bordertown local Albert Florence, 35, was arrested and spent 7 days in jail in 2005 for a supposed outstanding traffic fine he had already paid. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Florence was more concerned with the fact he was ordered to strip naked and was searched twice after he was sent to both the Burlington County and the Essex County jailhouses.
“It was horrible. I can even remember looking at a couple of the officers and one of them had a grin on his face … It’s disgusting, really disgusting,” said Florence. He recalled the officers lining up the men four at a time, telling each person to spread his arms apart, turn around, squat down, lift his genitals, and then cough.
Although Florence was released from Essex after a judge agreed he had no reason to be in jail, the mistake of his arrest was not resolved until after his time behind bars. The experience eventually led Florence to hire a lawyer and bring the issue before a court.
Albert Florence’s case, which has now reached the Supreme Court, raises the question of whether every individual who enters a jail, including those who have been arrested on minor charges, should be subject to strip searches.
The lawyers defending the two county jails argued that having a policy for a blanket strip-search is the simplest and fairest method for keeping prisons safe, because they allow officers to find evidence for any transmissible diseases and check for injuries and tattoos that suggest an offender was a member of a gang.
“If I’m walking in there for a broken taillight, I don’t expect to get strip-searched,” argued Susan Chana Lask, Florence’s attorney, who offered to take on the case without charging her client any legal fees.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case later this fall.