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Strip Search Class Action Settlement
By Sarah Pierce

county jail

A proposed settlement has been reached with prison operator GEO Group, Inc. in a class action lawsuit involving illegal strip searches at six GEO jails in four states. The $2.99 million class action lawsuit settlement could mean up to $400 for each eligible class member.

 

The class action lawsuit was filed against Florida-based GEO in 2006, alleging constitutional violations over strip searches of pretrial detainees held on minor offenses. The lawsuit claimed the searches were conducted regardless of whether there was reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the person had weapons or contraband. The named plaintiffs in the class action include a woman in a pretrial diversion program for a DUI arrest who was strip searched in front of a room full of other female weekend inmates, and a man who was strip searched after mistakenly failing to appear for a scheduled court date resulting from a domestic dispute.

 

The class action lawsuit settlement covers individuals who were held as pretrial detainees and strip searched at GEO-run correctional facilities in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas between the dates of January 30, 2006 and January 30, 2008, and in New Mexico from January 30, 2005 and January 30, 2008. The settlement does not include individuals who were convicted at the time that they were admitted to one of these facilities and who were committed to serve a sentence for that conviction, or who were not strip searched.

 

If you were admitted to one of the correctional facilities listed on the Settlement Administrator website and believe you were illegally strip searched, you have until September 14, 2010 to submit a claim form in order to receive payment under the class action settlement.

 

The GEO class action settlement is one of dozens of class action lawsuits that have been brought against jails across the country regarding their blanket policies of strip-searching individuals. A landmark $33 million settlement was reached in March in a class action lawsuit against New York City jails over illegal strip searches of pretrial detainees, and a $5.9 million settlement was reached in 2009 in a class action lawsuit over the strip-search policies of the Philadelphia prison system. New Mexico alone has had over half a dozen class actions lawsuits filed against county jails based on these same strip-search policies. Thousands of individuals have been paid claims in the settlement of these cases.

 

With so many jails facing class action lawsuits over illegally strip searching pretrial detainees, we wonder when they’ll start changing their policies to avoid litigation.  

 

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Updated August 3rd, 2010

 

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