When you are first booked into jail there is something called the Golden Hour. It's not necessarily an hour, but it's never shorter then an hour without a legitimate reason (such as being a danger to one's self or others) before one completes the intake process.
After you are booked into jail you are typically left in a holding tank until a bail is set. At that time you are given an opertunity to to leave on bail. If you can't afford it, or don't have anyone to sign the bond mans note, then you proceed to intake.
Once in intake you are stripped out. The reasons for this are many. First, everything you enter jail with is contraband within the jail. Your clothes must be taken from you because others will steal them. All your personal possessions, including jewelry, is logged and added to your file. Your shoes are also taken. The prison gives you a new set of clean clothes.
The strip process, regardless of offense booked on, is for safety and security reasons. People recovering from even minor surgery need to be identified by the prison for health reasons, they are typically held in a separate area of the jail. In addition, excluding the obvious drugs and weapons, the COs are also looking for things like signs of abuse, infections, tattoos (which need to be cataloged for a host of reasons including gang affiliation), bug infestations, etc.
Another issue. If you don't have a policy in place to strip everyone processed through intake (please be careful in throwing words about- there is a substantial difference between being booked and being processed) how do you decide who gets stripped? The answer is you don't. Everyone has to receive equal treatment. There is no difference between the misdemeanor offense and the accused felon. There are many instances of violent felons being arrested after they have committed their crimes on minor charges. Various intake facilities have discovered drugs, guns, knives, and a plethora of other potentially dangerous items on those being stripped. It's a sad fact that many police pat searches miss even the most obvious of hidden weapons (for anyone interested there is a famous video of a man accused of killing his wife being interviewed in an interrogation room. The individual had been patted down when arrested, taken to a holding cell, patted a second time at the station, been uncuffed, been escorted to the interrogation room to meet with an unarmed detective. The detective, obviously not expecting the individual to be armed, asks if he would like anything to eat. Keep in mind this is several hours after being arrested but never booked or processed. The man orders a turkey sandwich. The detective sits and starts talking with him. The detective eventually leave the room to get the sandwich. The man then removes a .45 pistol from his pants and shoots himself in the head.)
The case, if anyone is interested in reading it and not taking their cues from the media who typically have no legal training, is Florence v. Board of Chose Freeholders of County of Burlington. Another thing that is VERY important but that the media did not report in its politically motivated reliance on the emotions associated with a 5-4 split is that this case is NON BINDING. There was no majority opinion. In order for an opinion to be binding there must be a majority opinion. In this case there wasn't one. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion because the case was assigned to him by the Chief. That assignment makes his opinion the lead one. However, he was only joined by Justice Thomas. The Chief filed a separate, concurring opinion as did Justice Alito. Concurring opinions do not count towards a majority opinion, they only indicate the reasons why that particular Justice held that way.
Florence was arrested because he had an outstanding warrant in the state database. The warrant was a bench warrant issued when he didn't show up to court to pay his court mandated fine for fleeing from the police, obstruction of justice, and assault with a deadly weapon. For some reason, the computer system wasn't updated when he paid his fine and the warrant was still outstanding (he was not arrested for failing to signal, he was arrested as a violent offender with an outstanding warrant).
This is not the only case to deal with this. There have been at least a dozen cases over the last twenty years and, as courts are required to do, they give deference to the experts in the field. In this case, the COs and the people who write the Standard operating procedure for securing such institutions. In these instances, the court has in the past properly noted that prisoners, many of whom are professional criminals, continue to engage in illegal activities while in prison. Strip searches are a means of eliminating many of the drugs and weapons which are smuggled into prisons on a daily basis.
Justice Kennedy goes out of his way to point out that the court has not been asked to decide on who can be taken to jail (when a Justice writes this it means that the court wants to hear a case on who may be taken to jail).
The opinion then goes on at some length about why searches are conducted in the first place, pointing out that there were over ten thousand assaults on prison staff last year and many more prisoner on prisoner assaults, some of which were carried out using simple objects as stabbing weapons such as pens.
The court next looks at people who have done bad things and been arrested for minor offenses as well as people who have gotten themselves arrested on minor charges in an attempt to smuggle contraband (drugs, weapons, porn, matches, lighters...the list is endless) into prisons.
The court next goes on to say that they are only ruling on those who are kept in general population, not on people who will have no interaction or access to other prisoners.
The court basically did nothing but to continue allowing COs to do everyday what they have been doing for decades.
Another important point to take notice of is this; when a case is appealed the appellant (the one making the appeal) generally tries to convince the court (whether its a state ct. of app, a fed ct. of app. or the Supreme Ct.) to adopt a new rule to use in the place of the one they are arguing against. In this case Justice Kennedy noted that the appellant proffered no workable rule to the court that would be able to be administered in a fair manner which would also result in the security of the facility, those who work there, and those who are housed there.