Last Monday, a settlement was announced that New York City will provide $33 million to approximately 100,000 people who were strip searched after being charged with misdemeanors. This is the latest in a series of lawsuits related to unjustified strip searches, something the NYPD has been accused of for years. It is the third time in a decade, in fact, that the city has paid millions to settle lawsuits involving the strip search of nonviolent prisoners.
Strip searches for people accused of minor crimes were deemed unconstitutional by law in 1986. Yet New York continues to act in defiance of the law. In 2001, New York City settled a similar suit, spending roughly $40 million dollars, filed on behalf of over 50,000 people who were strip searched while waiting arraignment. Once again, in 2005, the city paid several millions to settle the allegations of thousands of people who were unlawfully strip searched while in New York detention centers between 1999 and 2002.
The most recent settlement grew from a lawsuit filed in 2005 on behalf of about 100,000 people. Two years after that lawsuit was filed, city officials admitted wrongdoing. They also vowed to install outside monitors to ensure unnecessary strip searches had stopped. The settlement also covers another 19 additional defendants who say they were illegally strip searched after 2007. Many of the people searched were accused of misdemeanors such as shoplifting, trespassing, or failure to pay child support. These accusations, lawyers say, didn’t warrant the practice of strip searching as there was no reason to believe there might be concealed weapons or drugs.
Defendants in the cases, both men and women, claimed that they were ordered to take off their clothes and allow guards to inspect their body cavities. Hopes are that a proper settlement would cover the humiliation of the unjustified searches.