Florence sued the jail, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated when he was taken in for a minor offense and subjected to a humiliating strip search.
Florence said during the search he was directed to remove all his clothing, then open his mouth and lift his tongue, hold out his arms and turn around and lift his genitals. He said that jails and prisons should not be allowed to strip search individuals brought in for minor offenses in the absence of reasonable suspicion that they are carrying contraband.
Lower courts have split on the issue as to whether reasonable suspicion is needed before strip searching an individual entering the prison population.
In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.
But in recent years, courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees. The Obama administration has filed a friend of the court brief in support of the jails involved in Jones' arrest. In briefs it argued that the need for security in the jails outweighs the individual privacy rights regarding strip searches.
It points out that the Federal Bureau of Prisons houses more than 216,000 pretrial detainees and convicted inmates, and subjects them all to visual body-cavity inspections before they can be placed in the general prison population.
"Prisons and jails are unique place[s] fraught with serious security dangers," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued in court papers, "where the smuggling of weapons, drugs and other contraband poses a serious threat to inmate and officer safety and institutional security."