For starters, let’s get one thing straight right from the gitgo, I’m not talking about no trip to the dentist. Next, this write up is done in Americentric terms, I’m sure other countries have their own practices in effect when it comes to cavity searches.
As we all know, prisons can be a pretty dangerous place. When you consider how crowded many of them are and the type of clientele they attract, it should come as no surprise that many of the folks who are incarcerated are looking for ingenious ways to protect themselves against the pool of inmates. Prisons also have their own economy among the inmates and contraband in the form of illegal weapons, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and certain food stuffs often act as the commodities that fuel the market.
Why don’t we float a hypothetical out there and suppose that you had run afoul of the law. After being convicted at trial and depending on the nature of your crime, you might find yourself being subjected to some type of body search before you can call the prison home. In order to detect some the things I mentioned earlier, you might be subjected to a body search of some kind. Usually this might be the old fashioned strip search in which you’re ordered to peel down to your essentials and are given the once over behind closed doors by some trained professionals.
But, we all know that nature abhors a vacuum and enterprising prisoners have found a way to escape the watchful eye of the authorities. They began concealing articles of contraband inside various body cavities and would wait for a moment of privacy to transfer them from inside of their bodies to a place where they would be more useful. Some of their favorite hiding places include the rectum, the colon, the vagina, the mouth, the urethral meatus, the nostrils and any other orifice that comes to mind.
It wasn’t long before prison officials got wise to what was going on and decided that something more thorough was in order. Thus, the body cavity search was born.
Actually, there are two types of them. If you’re “lucky” and get the first type, all you’ll be subjected to is the opening of said orifices and having them examined visually with a flashlight by those in charge.
If you’re not so lucky, you can expect to be examined “manually”. That means one of the kinder gentler members of the prison staff will strap on a pair of latex gloves and proceed to prod and probe you in places you’ve probably never been prodded or probed before. Don’t expect to snuggle and whisper soft nothings afterwards either.
Member of prisoners rights groups and other activists have long argued that these types of searches are illegal and unnecessary. They claim that they are performed more as a form of humiliation and act as more of a deterrent than uncovering anything of value.
The issue comes up every now and then by these same activists in the courts. They state that the cavity search is degrading, highly invasive and violates a prisoner's right to privacy. Some cases have made it all the way to the Supreme Court which has so far consistently ruled that even though a “standard of reasonableness” must be proven before a cavity search can be conducted, their need based upon security concerns outweighs outlawing them all together.