After years of subjecting jail visitors to invasive searches, New York City has agreed to resolve the matter by coughing up $12.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.
From Top Class Actions:
The settlement benefits individuals who attempted to visit an inmate at a New York City Department of Correction facility between Nov. 23, 2012 and Oct. 30, 2019 and were subject to an invasive search.
Plaintiffs filed the New York invasive search class action lawsuit in November 2015, alleging that visitors to New York City Department of Correction facilities were subjected to unreasonable and invasive searches.
Invasive searches allegedly required visitors to expose their breasts, genitals, or buttocks or involved contact with these parts of the body more than was accidental or incidental. Women were also allegedly required to expose, remove, or display their feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that these searches were clear violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, in addition to violating New York’s state constitution.
Gothamist reports that this is the first time the Big Apple will pay damages to visitors instead of prisoners:
In the most serious cases, women said female guards penetrated them or forced them to drop their pants and show their sanitary napkins. NAACP Legal Defense Fund Attorney Raymond Audain represents the class and said one of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit endured a horrific experience.
“She was required to pull down her pants and all of this was done in front of her five-year-old daughter,” Audain said. “And what I thought made it especially troubling was that the guard told her that this was proper procedure.”
Per the terms of the settlement, plaintiffs are entitled to up to $4,000 per person in damages, while those found with contraband will only receive $500. Additionally, the city has agreed to retrain all correction officers by May of 2020, and those found to have received prior complaints or related issues could be deemed “unfit” to continue working with visitors. New York City also does not admit fault or liability.
The lawsuit is a step in the right direction, but nowhere near enough to properly address the humiliation and trauma that many visitors to Rikers Island and other NYCDOC-run facilities have suffered.
“Their damages far exceed $4,000, and they have suffered greatly as a result of what has been done,” lawyer Alan Figman said.
A final court hearing is scheduled for February 2020 in which a judge will either approve or deny the terms of the settlement.