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116 Northwestern University Law Review 911 (2022)


Girls who are incarcerated share a common trait: They have often experienced multiple forms of sexual assault, at the hands of those close to them and at the hands of the state. The #MeToo movement has exposed how powerful people and institutions have facilitated pervasive sexual violence. However, there has been little attention paid to the ways that incarceration perpetuates sexual exploitation. This Article focuses on incarcerated girls and argues that the state routinely sexually assaults girls by mandating invasive, nonconsensual searches. Unwanted touching and display of private parts are common features of life before and after incarceration—from the sexual abuse many incarcerated girls experienced at home to the nonconsensual touching of their bodies they all experience when they enter detention facilities. Mandating invasive searches is a particularly gendered form of traumatization that is especially troubling given Black and Indigenous girls’ disproportionate representation in juvenile detention facilities. So, like their ancestors, their bodies have become sites for conquest, dominion, and discipline. This Article examines the severity and normality of state violence and provides a constitutional basis for eliminating blanket and routine searches by arguing that these invasive searches violate the Fourth Amendment, Thirteenth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment rights of incarcerated girls. Despite a purported concern for these girls’ rehabilitation, incarcerated girls must endure humiliating searches that require that they expose their bodies to the parental state. The routine touching that marks the everyday lives of incarcerated girls illustrates the ordinariness of the violence of incarceration in the United States.