Does the End Justify the Means?
On Monday April 2, 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in the case of Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders that the police can strip search anyone entering jail (not just prison, but also jail) after being arrested for any offense (murder to drug trafficking to speeding to walking your dog without a leash). Often contraband, such as weapons and drugs, enter the prison system through newly introduced inmates, thus the Justices reasoned that the safety of the inmates and guards outweighs the privacy and rights of the individual. Is this just?
Consider what this means, as observed by Sherry Colb on CNN Opinion (click here for the article):
In one facility, this means “a complete disrobing, followed by an examination of the nude inmate … by the supervising officer, which is then followed by a supervised shower with a delousing agent.” In the other facility, the booking process “required groups of 30 to 40 arrestees to enter a large shower room, simultaneously remove all of their clothing, place it in boxes and then shower.”
To personally answer the question of justice, self-reflect on do you consider it just (not necessarily like or be happy with, but know in your heart it is just) if a loved one, friend, acquaintance, or yourself were stripped searched for not paying a parking ticket. It is the same exercise for for torture, i.e. water boarding, where being accused of a crime justifies the means to extract the sought after information. Using this simple litmus test, some will find the court’s decision just and others will not.
I personally, and profoundly, believe that the decision of the Supreme Court is not just. The court determined the best way to protect the inmates and guards is by removing the rights and dignitary of the accused. They focused on a laudable end goal and worked backwards to justify the means – a slippery slope of reasoning that can make any injustice justifiable.
So what can we do given the highest court in the land has made their decision? Luckily, times and attitudes change – hopefully for the better. Slavery and discrimination were justified by the courts and later overturned, and so might this decision. Citizens have several avenues to address this injustice: writing your representative, speaking our against the injustice both verbally and using the internet, and if the injustice happens to you, fight back through the courts by suing the police and state. You most likely will lose, but all we need is one judge to recognize the injustice and open back up the debate.