Restorative Action Alliance Supports Stop Solitary Connecticut's Campaign to End Dehumanizing Strip Searches in CT Prison and Jails
The Stop Solitary CT campaign strongly believes that strip searching primarily serves to humiliate, degrade, and dehumanize incarcerated people. You can learn more about the SSCT campaign, including facts, narratives and research on their website.
Restorative Action Alliance supports this campaign, because we are first and foremost concerned with reducing and eliminating sexual victimization.The practice of conducting strip searches on the residents of our prisons and jails represents sexual harm and should be eliminated as a practice in our state and elsewhere for the following reasons:
- Dehumanization: Strip searches are de-humanizing and humiliating experiences for incarcerated people, particularly when they are conducted in a way that is aggressive or disrespectful. Being forced to remove one's clothing in front of others, revealing and even being forced to open intimate orifices erodes a person’s sense of dignity, autonomy and self-worth. Simply put, this practice is sexual assault perpetrated by the state on a regular basis against incarcerated people.
- Violates privacy rights: Strip searches can also be seen as a violation of an incarcerated person’s privacy rights. While it is true that residents of jails and prisons give up certain rights when they are incarcerated, they should still have a reasonable expectation of privacy, particularly when it comes to their bodies. Strip searches are invasive and intrusive, leaving inmates violated and exposed, as a matter of routine practice, often with no indication that contraband is present or even suspected.
- Re-victimization of sexual violence survivors: For some inmates, particularly those who have experienced sexual abuse or trauma in the past, strip searches can be further traumatizing. Being forced to remove their clothing and be inspected by others can trigger intense feelings of fear, shame, and anxiety, and it can exacerbate existing mental health issues.
- Ineffectiveness: While the stated purpose of strip searches is that they are used to prevent the smuggling of contraband into jails and prisons, there is little evidence to suggest that they are an effective means of doing so. Furthermore, strip searches can create an adversarial relationship between incarcerated people and prison staff, which can make it more difficult to establish trust and cooperation. Other individuals who enter the facilities, such as correctional staff, administrators and contractors are not subjected to the same treatment as residents. There are less intrusive and dehumanizing methods to accomplish the goal of preventing contraband from entering facilities, such as body scanners.The same respect for human dignity should be practiced for ALL people, including those serving out their court-mandated sentence or who are incarcerated while awaiting trial.
Costs: Conducting strip searches requires a significant amount of time and resources, and is costly for prisons to implement this practice on a regular basis. Strip searches often require multiple staff members to be present, which can divert resources away from other tasks and responsibilities.
RAA is dedicated to breaking cycles of sexual harm through education, prevention, rehabilitation and restoration for all people. In order to create collective safety, our society must prevent and eliminate sexual violence no matter where it occurs, particularly when it is encouraged and perpetrated in state systems. Alternative mechanisms and technologies exist to conduct searches, and are utilized in other contexts with the general public. Incarcerated people should be afforded the same consideration, as repeated sexual assault should not be not part of a person’s sentence.
See our written testimony to the CT Judiciary on this issue here.
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