New York City to Pay $33 Million in Damages for Illegal Strip Searches

  • March 23, 2010

New York City has agreed to pay $33 Million in money damages to approximately 100,000 pretrial detainees arraigned on misdemeanors and lesser offenses who were illegally strip searched at admission to a City jail between 1999 and 2007, even though there was no reason to believe they were concealing drugs or contraband. These humiliating strip searches required groups of detainees to fully undress in front of each other and in front of multiple guards, lift their genitals or breasts, spread their buttocks, cough while squatting, and allow guards to inspect their private body cavities. Those illegally strip searched were being held on minor offenses – such as jumping turnstiles, failing to pay child support, shoplifting, and trespassing – and there was no reason to believe they were concealing drugs or contraband.

The March 16, 2010 settlement, which the Court preliminarily approved today, provides for monetary awards, with a maximum amount of $2900, for those pretrial detainees strip searched during the initial admission process to a New York City Department of Corrections (“DOC”) facility between July 15, 1999 and October 4, 2007. Richard D. Emery, lead attorney for the class, said: “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. We hope in some small way these damage awards will stand for some semblance of justice for these victims.”

The Court preliminarily approved the settlement today. In approximately three months, notice and a claim form will be sent to all 100,000 persons in the class. Class members must return the claim form to be eligible for payment. Persons who think they are in the class may call 800-760-5508 for more information and to ensure that we have their current address. Press may contact Richard D. Emery, Mariann Meier Wang, or Elizabeth S. Saylor at 212-763-5000 for more information.

To view the New York Times article, click here.