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San Francisco violated the rights of thousands of jail inmates who were strip-searched without authorities having any reason to believe they were carrying weapons or contraband, a divided federal appeals court ruled Friday.
Under the policy, every inmate who was designated for transfer to another jail was subjected to a visual body cavity search.
Jail officials said they needed the strip searches to keep inmates from smuggling guns and drugs into the jails. But the appeals court, upholding a federal judge's 2005 ruling, said the policy violated constitutional standards that allow such searches only for specific reasons - that the inmate is charged with a violent or drug-related crime, has committed those crimes in the past, or is reasonably suspected of concealing contraband.