The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.
For the reasons set forth below, the court holds that plaintiff is
entitled to summary judgment on the claim that the Nassau County strip
search policy, which requires a strip/visual body cavity search of all
prisoners remanded to custody of the NCCC, is unconstitutional. While the
court is mindful and, indeed, sympathetic, to the legitimate security and
safety needs expressed by the Nassau County Sheriff, the court is
constrained by clear precedent holding that a blanket strip search
policy, such as that practiced by Nassau County, violates the
Plaintiff was arrested by Nassau County police officers responding to a
call placed by plaintiffs wife concerning a domestic dispute. While some
facts are contested, it is clear that at the time of the call plaintiff
and his wife were embroiled in divorce proceedings. Although plaintiff
was living in the same house as his wife, an order of protection, which
had expired the day before the police were called to the residence,
required, inter alia, plaintiff and his wife to occupy separate portions
of the home.
Among the police officers responding to the domestic dispute call was
defendant police officer Ellison. Because it is unnecessary, for the
purposes of this ruling, to discuss the specific facts surrounding
Plaintiff's arrest, the court will state here only that plaintiff was
arrested and subsequently remanded by a Nassau County District Court
Judge to the custody of the Nassau County Sheriff at the NCCC.
II. Plaintiff's Search at the NCCC
Upon arrival at the NCCC plaintiff was subject to that facility's
procedures regarding all newly admitted prisoners. There are no questions
of material fact regarding the policy for admission of new inmates to the
NCCC. The Sheriff of Nassau County was deposed and testified that all
individuals entering the NCCC are strip searched.*fn2 Additionally, the
court has been provided with copies of the written procedure and has
considered briefs, arguments of counsel and has heard testimony regarding
the procedure. The procedure at issue is as follows.
All prisoners remanded to the NCCC are subject to a strip/visual body
cavity search. The procedure makes no distinctions based upon the nature
of the crime charged or the circumstances surrounding the particular
arrest. It matters not whether a newly admitted prisoner has been
remanded after a misdemeanor charge or a violent felony or drug charge.
Indeed, while the NCCC is provided with papers indicating the crime with
which the inmate has been charged, the officer performing the search has
no information regarding the circumstances surrounding the inmate's
remand to the NCCC. Nor are officers at the NCCC provided with
information indicating whether there is a reasonable suspicion as to
whether a particular inmate may be concealing contraband. The provision
of such information is immaterial, however, since all inmates are subject
to the search.
The police officer performing the search of plaintiff testified that
the search took approximately one minute. Affidavit testimony attached to
defendants' papers indicate that the search takes approximately two
minutes. Plaintiff states that the search took approximately fifteen
minutes. The court is confident that the actual inspection time lies
somewhere in between these three estimates — any factual dispute
concerning this issue, however is not material to the present motion.