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Many prisoners are able to complete their sentences without running afoul of the disciplinary process and to manage their affairs so as to avoid placement in administrative segregation or transfer to higher security. But no prisoner, however well-behaved and compliant with the rules of the institution, can avoid the intrusions into personal privacy that are part of the daily ritual of prison life. On any day, a prisoner can expect to have his cell searched and may have his personal possessions, such as family photographs, posters and other ornaments, "re-arranged" or discarded; he may be physically searched by a scanner or frisked by means of a hand search from head to foot; he may be ordered to submit to a strip-search in which he is required to undress completely before staff members, open his mouth for examination, and allow a visual inspection of his genital and anal area. All of his clothing may be searched. He may be asked to provide a sample of urine for urinalysis. Superimposed on this, the prisoner, while in his own cell, is subject to surveillance at any time by staff and may be observed engaging in the most intimate bodily functions.

These intrusions have been appropriately described by sociologists as "status degradation ceremonies," in that their daily repetition reinforces a prisoner's feeling of being less than human. In the context of growing societal concern about the right to privacy in the modern technological world, it is not surprising that prisoners have demanded their privacy no longer be treated as a disposable commodity. From the perspective of a prison administrator, however, the power to search is not an attempt to degrade prisoners but a necessary, indeed indispensable, strategy for maintaining a safe community and ensuring adherence to institutional rules about possession of contraband, particularly weapons and drugs. For a prison administrator, given the realities of the prison environment, the prisoner's right to privacy must be compromised and large and liberal powers of search must be authorized.

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