Vt. Corrections Evaluates Supreme Court’s Strip Search Ruling

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The head of Vermont’s Corrections Department says a recent Supreme Court ruling on strip searches won’t make a significant difference in procedures used in Vermont.

Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito says in 2011, there were over 3,000 admissions in Vermont correctional facilities, and only 21 strip searches.

Pallito said his department strip searches people who commit both misdemeanors and felonies in Vermont – but only when officers have reason to be suspicious that an arrested individual is hiding something.

"Strip searches are a tool that we use to manage correctional facilities," Pallito said. "Whether somebody comes in as a misdemeanor or a felony, they still pose a risk once inside an incarcerated setting. Now, even though the risk may be less, once they come into an incarcerated facility their risk automatically goes up.  And I think we need that tool to ensure the safety and security of our correctional facilities," he said.

Pallito says there are internal checks to make sure strip searches are being done appropriately.

When searches are conducted, reports are automatically generated to his office and his deputy commissioner reviews them each morning.

"She looks at all those reports and ferrets back whether or not that was appropriate use, did we follow our directive, and if necessary goes back to any video that may exist so that we make sure this tool is being used appropriately," he said.

Commissioner Pallito says there is a difference between strip searches and body cavity searches – the latter are only conducted by medical staff, not corrections officers.

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