MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) -- A federal judge says the Yamhill County juvenile jail has gone over the line in what he terms "astonishingly thorough" strip searches of young people.
The McMinnville News-Register reported Friday that U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled the searches unconstitutional -- too intrusive and demeaning.
The Juvenile Detention Center searches young people when they are first jailed and then again after face-to-face visits with lawyers and counselors.
A group of young people sued the center in 2008, saying they were searched as often as eight times in five days.
The searches could discourage young people from seeking help, Mosman wrote in a ruling on motions.
"It is not hard to imagine a juvenile ... begging her attorney not to come visit her again, lest she be subjected to an Nth strip search," he said. "Nor is it any better to envision a troubled young person declining to visit with her therapist for the same reason."
The county argued its policy is reasonable and no more intrusive than necessary, and it could appeal Mosman's ruling even as the case goes on. A trial is scheduled in October, when issues such as damages are to be considered.
Searches don't follow family visits, which are conducted with glass partitions.
Mosman ruled out a strip search even when a young person is first jailed, if it's conducted as the Yamhill County searches are.
He said youngsters are required to strip, then stand naked while a staff member examines them from head to toe.
Although they are never touched, girls are required to manipulate their breasts and boys their scrotums and sometimes their penises in front of the examiner, he said.
Furthermore, Mosman said, they are required to stand naked while the examiner goes over parts of their bodies that don't require their clothes to be off, such as their hair, mouths and limbs.
"The duration of this multi-step search, and the corresponding length of time in which a juvenile stands fully exposed and subject to inspection makes this search particularly demeaning," Mosman wrote. "The YCJDC strip searches are also, to put it charitably, astonishingly thorough."
Attorney Leonard Berman said Mosman's ruling against even the initial searches went further than the plaintiffs had asked.
"That was not argued by us," he said. "To frankly go off the menu and advocate for us is very uncommon and very exciting. It's surprisingly refreshing."