Will County, Il., sheriff’s officials violated the constitutional rights of thousands of people arrested for minor offenses, such as failing to appear in court on a traffic case, by forcing them to submit to strip-searches, says a federal judge’s ruling reported by the Chicago Tribune. Officials argued that they needed to strip-search even small-time arrestees because limited space meant those people would he housed with more serious offenders. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled that jail guards could not strip-search people arrested for minor offenses unless there was some reason to suspect they had drugs, weapons, or other contraband. Strip-searches are “inherently invasive,” Gettleman wrote. “Administrative concerns such as `space constraints’ are not sufficient to justify blanket strip search policies.”
The ruling came in a class action lawsuit involving more than 3,800 people strip searched at the jail since 2001. Plaintiffs in a similar case were awarded about $500 each. In 2001, Cook County, Il., paid $6.8 million to settle claims that guards improperly strip-searched female inmates at the county jail.