court the latitude to consider these concerns, the outcome of this motion
may well have been different.
Approximately 1,100 individuals are employed at the NCCC, 950 of whom
are corrections officers. The facility houses approximately 1,800 inmates
on any given day. These inmates arrive at the NCCC, in their street
clothes, from a variety of places throughout Nassau County. Each year,
approximately 14,000 inmates are processed for introduction to the NCCC.
Upon arrival at the NCCC, the corrections officer has available the
history of the inmate's offenses (if any) as well as a notation
explaining the reason the inmate is being held and commitment papers
noting the remand from a judge.
Inmates at the NCCC are either awaiting trial or have been sentenced.
They include those charged and/or convicted of crimes ranging from murder
and rape to non-violent offenders. According to defendants, the NCCC also
houses members of identifiable gangs.
The court has reviewed defendants' submissions regarding security
concerns and notes the difficulty in maintaining a safe facility.
According to defendant's submissions (which the court recognizes have not
been subject to cross-examination), a random search of inmate files
revealed that in the past two years there have been six occasions when an
inmate was found to have various weapons during a strip search and eight
occasions when the initial strip search revealed concealed drugs. While
these numbers are not very high, when compared to the number of inmates
coming through the facility, the dangers posed by concealed weapons in a
facility such as the NCCC are indeed great.
Corrections officers at the NCCC are concerned not only with protecting
themselves and other employees, but with protecting the safety of other
inmates. Indeed, a failure to properly protect inmates may well result in
the imposition of civil liability.
While the court is clear that the precedent established by Weber, and
reiterated in Walsh, precludes this court from upholding a blanket strip
search policy in the absence of reasonable suspicion regarding the
arrest, the court notes that the prison facilities at issue in both
Weber and Walsh were undoubtably different, in many important respects,
from the facility at issue here. While the court does not profess to have
an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Monroe County,
Rochester jail (at issue in Weber) or the Chittenden County, Vermont jail
(at issue in Walsh), or even of the size of those facilities, the court
questions whether the institutional concerns present at the NCCC can be
fairly compared to these facilities.
In sum, a full consideration of the facts surrounding the NCCC and its
particular concerns may have resulted in a finding that a one or two
minute strip search conducted in privacy might well be warranted when
balanced against the concerns of this particular institution. The court
makes no finding as to the proper outcome of this balance. Certainly, it
would have been necessary to take additional testimony and have each
party present their side of the story. Given the state of the law,
however, the court could not properly consider this evidence.
The policy of strip searching all misdemeanor and minor offense
arrestees remanded to the NCCC, without requiring any suspicion that the
remanded individual is concealing weapons or other contraband, violates
the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment with regard to the strip searching policy in
effect at the Nassau County Correctional Center is granted.