Criminal Justice

Discovery of chemical on legal papers leads to inmate strip searches after lawyer visits

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The discovery of chemical-soaked legal paperwork has led jailers in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to order strip searches of inmates after they meet with attorneys.

Jail officials discovered the soaked papers while searching for the source of airborne chemicals, believed to be synthetic marijuana, that sickened about 15 jail employees, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports in stories here and here.

The inmates light the paper on fire to get high, the Post-Gazette explains.

The jail’s warden wouldn’t disclose whether he believed lawyers were the source of the paperwork. But emails reviewed by the Post-Gazette indicate that lawyers now have to disclose whether they intend to leave legal documents with inmates.

Angus Love, executive director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, told the Post-Gazette that the strip searches could discourage inmates from seeing their lawyers.

“It does chill your right to see your attorney,” he told the Post-Gazette. “Strip searches are very uncomfortable.”

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