New York City has agreed to pay as much as $30 million to thousands of people who were illegally strip-searched after being arrested on minor charges, the New York Daily News reports. Settlement notices are going out today to more than 40,000 men and women who were forced to disrobe – and in some cases squat – in front of fellow prisoners at Rikers Island and other jails from 1999 to 2002. Women were forced to undergo gynecological exams, in addition to the strip searches. “They bring you into a room and they make you take all your clothes off in front of 75, 80 people,” said David Cence, 32, a plaintiff in a class-action suit.
Cence, a tow truck driver, was arrested on a contempt of court charge and hauled to the Brooklyn House of Detention – where he was treated like a violent felon. Said lawyer Richard Cardinale: “They were strip-searched in groups. They were all lined up in a shower area, stripped naked, forced to squat and jump up and down.” He said the searches were illegal in the cases of those charged with misdemeanors or violations that didn’t involve weapons or drugs. After the suit was filed in 2002, the Correction Department changed its policy and stopped strip-searching nonfelons.