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United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D

September 12, 1983


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.


Evangeline Roscom ("Roscom") originally sued the City of Chicago ("City"), Cook County ("County") and certain City and County officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") charging violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.*fn1 This action remains pending against the County defendants.*fn2 Roscom seeks compensatory damages of $100,000, and she also asks punitive damages against the individual defendants.*fn3

This action has been tried on the facts (to which the parties have stipulated) without a jury. In accordance with Rule 52(a) this Court finds the facts specially and states its conclusions of law thereon in the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

Findings of Fact ("Findings")

1. Roscom was arrested April 5, 1980 by City police officers pursuant to a legal arrest warrant charging deceptive practice (Stip. ¶ 6). Roscom was then taken to the City facility at 1121 South State Street and questioned as to checks Roscom had written that had not been honored by her bank (Stip. ¶ 7).

2. Roscom was fingerprinted and detained at the City facility for several hours. She then experienced severe chest pains and was taken to the Mercy Hospital emergency room for examination (Stip. ¶ 8). After the examination she was returned to the City facility (Stip. ¶ 9).

3. On April 6 Roscom (still at 1121 South State Street) was placed in the custody of the County Sheriff (the "Sheriff") and taken before a judge for the setting of bail (Stip. ¶ 10). When Roscom was unable to post bail, the Sheriff transferred her to the County jail facility at 26th and California, Chicago, Illinois (the "County Jail") (Stip. ¶ 11). Upon Roscom's arrival at the County Jail, pictures were taken, some paperwork was completed and she was then placed in a County Jail cell (Stip. ¶ 12).

4. After several hours Roscom was taken from the County Jail cell to a room with other females, all of whom were ordered to line up in single file and take off their clothes for a search (Stip. ¶ 13). Roscom removed her clothes and proceeded to where the matron was. After a frontal visual search by the matron Roscom was instructed to turn around, spread her legs and bend over for a visual genital area search (Stip. ¶ 14). Only women were in the room when the searches took place (Stip. ¶ 17). At no time during either search did anyone touch Roscom (Stip. ¶ 16). After the search was completed Roscom picked up her clothes, took a shower and was taken back to a County Jail cell (Stip. ¶ 15).

5. County's Department of Corrections General Order 78-23 governs body searches (Stip. ¶ 18 and Ex. 1):

    B. An inmate is subject to a search of his or
  her person, either clothed or unclothed, when
  there is reasonable cause to believe the inmate
  may have contraband concealed on his or her
  person. Such searches or inspections may also be
  a routine requirement for inmate movement into or
  out of certain high security risk areas.

      1. An unclothed body search includes visual
    inspection of all body areas, including the
    anal and genital areas; therefore, correctional
    personnel will not conduct unclothed body
    inspection of an inmate of the opposite sex.
    This does not preclude routine search of
    clothing worn by an inmate without regard to
    the sex of the inmate or of personnel making
    such inspections.

      2. Rectal and vaginal searches or inspections
    of an inmate may not be made by anyone other
    than qualified medical personnel.

6. In support of the claimed reasonableness of the search in this cue, the County defendants have stated the procedure for processing pretrial detainees such as Roscom:

    (a) All such detainees are transported to the
  County Jail without segregation as to their
  charged offenses.

    (b) Upon arrival at the County Jail, such
  detainees are segregated by sex into holding

    (c) As part of their processing of the
  detainees into the Jail, detainees are visually
  strip searched and showered and their personal
  goods inventoried.

7. Roscom argues less intrusive means such as metallic sensory devices are available to vindicate County's interest in security, so that the visual strip search is arbitrary and purposeless.

Conclusions of Law ("Conclusions")

1. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559-60, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884-85, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979) (citations and footnotes omitted) is the seminal authority to be considered in any determination whether a visual strip search of a pretrial detainee is unlawful under the Fourth Amendment.

  The test of reasonableness under the Fourth
  Amendment is not capable of precise definition or
  mechanical application. In each case it requires
  a balancing of the need for the particular search
  against the invasion of personal rights that the
  search entails. Courts must consider the scope of
  the particular intrusion, the manner in which it
  is conducted, the justification for initiating
  it, and the place in which it is conducted. . . .
  A detention facility is a unique place fraught
  with serious security dangers. Smuggling of
  money, drugs, weapons, and other contraband is
  all too common an occurrence. And inmate attempts
  to secrete these items into the facility by
  concealing them in body cavities are documented
  in this record, App. 71-76, and in other
  cases. . . . That there has been only one
  instance where an MCC inmate was discovered
  attempting to smuggle contraband into the
  institution on his person may be more a testament
  to the effectiveness of this search technique as
  a deterrent than to any lack of interest on the
  part of the inmates to secrete and

  import such items when the opportunity arises.

  We do not underestimate the degree to which these
  searches may invade the personal privacy of
  inmates. Nor do we doubt, as the District Court
  noted, that on occasion a security guard may
  conduct the search in an abusive fashion. . . .
  Such an abuse cannot be condoned. The searches
  must be conducted in a reasonable manner. . . .
  But we deal here with the question whether visual
  body-cavity inspections as contemplated by the
  MCC rules can ever be conducted on less than
  probable cause. Balancing the significant and
  legitimate security interests of the institution
  against the privacy interests of the inmates, we
  conclude that they can.

2. Wolfish teaches the institution's need for the search must be balanced against the invasion of the pretrial detainee's privacy interest. It does not validate all visual strip searches as a matter of law — but it does not necessarily invalidate them either. See Tikalsky v. City of Chicago, 687 F.2d 175, 181-82 (7th Cir. 1982); Roscom, 550 F. Supp. at 155-56.

3. Applying Wolfish to this case,*fn4 this Court concludes the search of Roscom at the County Jail was not constitutionally unreasonable in Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment terms:

    (a) Wolfish does not require a showing of
  probable cause for visual strip searching of
  pretrial detainees (441 U.S. at 560, 99 S.Ct. at

    (b) None of the regularized and
  nondiscriminatory procedures (Findings 4 and 6)
  is unreasonable as applied to all pretrial

    (c) Irrespective of the crimes charged against
  pretrial detainees, County may reasonably
  consider any of them could be carrying weapons or
  contraband, either brought with the detainee into
  the County Jail or procured from other persons in
  the holding cell.

    (d) County's interest in the security of its
  Jail is legitimate. Its visual strip search of
  all pretrial detainees, carried out (1) by
  same-sex personnel (2) in a separate room (3)
  without in any way touching the detainees, is
  reasonable under the balancing test of

    (e) Roscom's suggested alternative of
  electronic sensory devices would not be effective
  to find non-metallic contraband such as drugs.
  Moreover, it has not been established that
  availability of a less intrusive alternative
  controls in determining whether the method used
  by law enforcement personnel is reasonable.

  Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 559-60 n. 40, 99 S.Ct. at 1885
  n. 40.

4. Because Roscom, had not yet been convicted of the charged offense, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment was inapplicable to her. Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 535 n. 16, 99 S.Ct. at 1872 n. 16.

5. Roscom has neither alleged nor proved the strip search was other than routine. It was not imposed as punishment for some reason. Of course, not every detention procedure utilized to further the security of a facility is punishment. Because the strip search procedure utilized in this case was a legitimate one to insure security of the County Jail, no violation of the Due Process Clause is implicated. See Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 536-40, 99 S.Ct. at 1872-74.


For the reasons stated in the Findings and Conclusions, Roscom has failed to establish any constitutional violation by any of the County defendants. Hence she is not entitled to any recovery under Section 1983. This action is dismissed on the merits.

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