As I read Tori Marlan’s article “Strip Search” (March 6), I found myself torn between a sense of outrage at the apparent flagrant abuse of power exercised by the sheriff’s department and certain jail employees and an inability to fully sympathize with the plaintiffs.
Hapless victims of circumstance, these otherwise law-abiding women found themselves slammed in jail for such minor offenses as running red lights and having expired license plates, all because there were outstanding warrants for their arrests. These warrants, which the women were supposedly unaware of, harked back to a trumped-up child-neglect charge in one case and an unfortunate collision with an elderly pedestrian while driving with a suspended license in another. What rotten luck!
The implication seemed to be that for these women, being detained and strip-searched in county jail was a punishment far exceeding their crimes, or perhaps that if this horror could happen to them it could happen to anyone, even me, if, say, I forgot to feed the meter one day. It seems to be a popularly held view that as individuals we are not responsible for our own actions or the consequences of those actions. Instead, we blame an undeniably flawed system with cracks wide enough for anyone to fall between. However, common sense would seem to dictate that license plates don’t renew themselves, warrants don’t go away on their own, and, as the plaintiff standing trial for murdering her abusive boyfriend could probably tell you, if you put yourself in the same room with a man who has hit you over the head with a two-by-four a couple of weeks earlier, something really bad might happen.
I have a method which has worked for me up to now for staying out of jail, where I might be subjected to unspeakable humiliations such as illegal strip searches. It is simple: I obey the law, even if it means stopping at those pesky red lights.
Tori Marlan replies:
Julie Homi, who seems to condone illegal strip searches as long as they’re done on women stupid enough to get arrested (even if they’re eventually acquitted), makes an erroneous assumption about Kenya Gary. For the record, Gary did not willingly put herself in the same room as her abusive ex-boyfriend. Rather, after she had severed ties with him and gotten a restraining order against him, he showed up at her home while she was out, forced out the friend who was baby-sitting, and called Gary saying he was leaving with two of her children and that she should come get the third. She rushed home, her ex-boyfriend surprised her, and an argument ensued. He struck her in the face, and–as a jury determined–she lawfully defended herself by stabbing him.