New York fined for strip searches in jails

New York City must pay $33 million in damages to thousands of victims of illegal strip searches conducted in city jails over an eight-year period, a U.S. judge ordered.

New York fined for strip searches in jails

New York City must pay $33 million in damages to thousands of victims of illegal strip searches conducted in city jails over an eight-year period, a U.S. judge ordered on Monday.

The settlement resulted from a class-action lawsuit that claimed that between 1999 and 2007, correctional officers subjected detainees to invasive and humiliating strip searches on their admission to city jails.

The crimes the detainees committed, the suit alleged, were too minor to warrant the extensive searches the city's Department of Corrections conducted.

"We are pleased that this serious deprivation of rights has been redressed for the tens of thousands of people who suffered these humiliating strip searches," Richard Emery, lead attorney for the class, said in a statement.

The suit described a grizzly ambience for detainees as they were brought to jail before trial: "Each person was required to fully disrobe and stand naked for DOC officers to visually inspect his or her armpits, oral cavity, ears, nose, and navel," court documents said.

"The detainee also had to squat or stand with his or her legs spread and body bent forward at the waist so that an officer could visually examine the detainee's genitalia and anal cavity. Women were also required to lift their breasts."

Civil rights activists called the decision it an "important settlement."

"The Department of Corrections has no business subjecting an accused turnstile jumper or shoplifter to a strip search if there is no individualized suspicion of having a weapon or contraband," said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

City officials said jail procedures were changed in 2007, and that privacy was now being protected.

"The City of New York and its Department of Correction have worked diligently to ensure that both safety and privacy are given high consideration during intake search procedures," said Genevieve Nelson, senior counsel at the New York City Law Department.

The settlement was given preliminary approval by Manhattan federal Judge John Koeltl on Monday. Victims must fill out claims before the judge grants final payment approval.

If about 15 percent of the 100,000 members of the class file for damages, they can expect up to $1,900 each out of the $29 million of settlement cash, class lawyer Mariann Wang said.


Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Mart 2010, 16:55

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