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Federal Court Sides with Muslim Advocates in Ruling on Prison Strip Searches

WASHINGTON, DC — On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, found that unreasonable strip searches can violate the Fourth Amendment rights of prisoners. Muslim Advocates filed two amicus briefs arguing that these searches violate privacy and religious freedom rights of incarcerated Americans.

The plaintiffs in the case are a group of women—incarcerated at Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, IL—who were subjected to a degrading and unnecessary strip search as part of an optional training exercise for prison guards. The court’s ruling restores the women’s Fourth Amendment rights and provides protection for future prisoners who are similarly mistreated. Muslim Advocates’ brief, which was joined at the petition stage by Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Reconstructing Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and Interfaith Alliance Foundation, highlighted the harms that many religious prisoners feel because forced nudity violates their religious beliefs in personal modesty. The plaintiffs were represented on the merits by Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy.

“The court’s opinion provides a path to justice for these mistreated prisoners and reaffirms that constitutional rights do not stop at prison doors,” said Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Matthew Callahan. “This holding ensures that the Fourth Amendment continues to protect all prisoners, including those whose religion directs them to keep their naked body private.”

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.