Strip Searched Inmates Could Save SF Millions

Former policy of visual body cavity searches for all new inmates under fire

Between 2002 and 2004, the San Francisco County Sheriff ordered that full strip and body cavity searches were to be performed on all new inmates in an effort to combat smuggling.

The policy has since been amended, but the practice could still cost millions if a class action suit currently before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is successful.

Plaintiff's counsel Mark Merin said that 28,000 were subjected to the "humiliating indignity" without proper cause. No contraband was found in any of the cases.

Strip searches are only supposed to be performed if an arrestee was charged with a violent crime, drug-related incident, is reasonably suspected of smuggling or has committed such acts previously.

The county court system amended its policy to conform to those restrictions in 2004.

And San Francisco is not alone -- $15 million was awarded to former Sacramento County inmates, and other counties across the state are facing similar suits. Photo by Mark Coggins.

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