Juvenile Law Center

Juvenile and Criminal Justice|Trauma and Trauma Informed Advocacy

Addressing Trauma: Eliminating Strip Searches

A strip search is a “search that requires a person to remove or arrange some clothing so as to permit a visual inspection of the person’s breasts, buttocks, or genitalia.” Strip searches may also involve “inspections of the scalp, ears, hands, feet, mouth, and nose.” Depending on state law, a strip search can be visual, physical, or a combination of both and may also involve a body cavity search.

Strip searches generally require probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and the law makes clear that such a significant intrusion into personal privacy should only occur when the government need is substantial. This fact sheet focuses on the issue of suspicionless strip searches in juvenile facilities.

The fact sheet outlines state policies that provide model alternatives to strip searches. Where possible, we have included citations to state policies in the footnotes. The best policy is to eliminate strip searches of youth for any circumstance, as is the policy for adjudicated youth in Missouri.

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June, 2017

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