New England editorial roundup
The Recorder of Greenfield (Mass.), April 11, 2012
United States Supreme Court threw common sense out the window recently.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that jails are allowed to conduct strip searches of new inmates regardless of the charges that the individual taken into custody faces. The particular case that the justices ruled on involves a New Jersey resident who was a passenger in a vehicle his wife was driving that was stopped by the police. When the officer checked the records, he discovered that there was a warrant for Albert Florence's arrest for a failure to appear at a hearing to enforce a fine. As it turns out this was an error. Florence had paid that fine two years earlier and produced a document proving it. But he was taken to the Burlington County jail, where he was strip-searched.
Florence was then transported to the Essex County jail, where guards once again made him go through the humiliation of a strip search. It was six days in jail before the police realized there was a mistake.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said it would be unworkable for jail personnel to search only those prisoners they reasonably suspected might be concealing drugs or weapons. Why is this seen as unworkable?
Plenty of information accompanies people brought to the jail, such as the circumstances surrounding their arrest and the charges they now face. All of that information goes into decisions, including whether they are put into the general jail population or are segregated for their own safety or the jail's security.
If jail personnel are using all of this information when it comes to particular decisions involving those already in jail and those new to the system, why can't this information be used in deciding whether a person should be subjected to a strip search, particularly when the charges don't involve violence or drugs?
We think it can.
And so does Justice Stephen Breyer, who, in his dissent for the court minority, said that the Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure includes strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs, weapons or violence, unless jail employees suspected they were carrying contraband.
If the majority of the court can't see what's reasonable, we still think that those working in jails and the state legislatures should show otherwise. Use common sense and limit the use of strip searches.
The Sun Journal of Lewiston (Maine), April 10, 2012
As technology changes, the law is always slow to adapt, but adapt it must if we are to increase the vital pool of bone marrow donors in this country.
The problem is painfully clear for 13-year-old Jordan Flynn of Lewiston and her family. Jordan is scheduled for a transplant in late April at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The transplant will extend Jordan's life for a number of years, but it will not cure her underlying condition, Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder that destroys bone marrow and makes its victims extremely susceptible to cancer and genetic blood disorders.
Of the family's five children, three have the fatal disorder, Jordan and her twin 7-year-old sisters, Julia and Jorja.
In a transplant, stem cells are removed from one person and infused into another, after the recipient's cells have been killed by drugs or radiation.
When a recipient and donor are a good genetic match, the cells move into the bone marrow of the recipient and begin producing healthy blood cells.
The procedure is used to treat leukemia and several other blood disorders.
Matching donors and recipients is very difficult. So the larger the pool of potential donors, the better the chance of finding a good match.
The family recently won a lawsuit against the federal government which prohibits donors from receiving compensation.
The U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to reconsider its decision, but the court refused, giving the Justice Department 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The intent of the federal law is noble, to prevent desperate people from selling organs for transplantation.
The goal is to prevent the sort of market for organs that has sprung up in China. A recent news story said five people had been arrested in Chenzhou for allowing a 17-year-old boy to sell a kidney to buy an iPad and iPhone.
But we see a clear distinction between selling organs, which cannot be replaced, and selling a renewable substance such as blood stem cells.
Traditionally, doctors have had to stick a needle into a donor's hip bone to remove marrow, a sometimes painful and risky procedure.
But a new method, peripheral blood stem cell donation, is nonsurgical plus less painful and risky. Blood is simply removed through a needle in one arm, processed by machine, then replaced. Then it is infused into the recipient.
Clearly, the new procedure is now more similar to platelet donation, for which compensation is allowed.
While making donations entirely out of a desire to save lives remains a wonderful humanitarian gesture, paying compensation would unarguably increase the available pool of donors.
That is crucial right now for thousands of people, including the Flynn family. But any one of us, or our loved ones, might some day need the same life-saving procedure.
The Justice Department should accept the lower court ruling: The time has come to allow compensation for this procedure.