Philadelphia will pay $5.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving thousands of strip searches by city prison guards between 2003 and 2007, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The settlement, filed in federal court, provides for payments of roughly $600 to $900 a person to those strip-searched after being jailed for misdemeanors, traffic violations, or other minor crimes.
Until 2007, Philadelphia’s six prisons strip-searched all new inmates, even people held overnight when they lacked money for bail. The search typically included visual “cavity searches,” requiring suspects to squat and bend over while guards looked. Across the nation, plaintiffs’ lawyers are winning multimillion-dollar class-action suits against the practice. In the last two years, four South Jersey counties have agreed to pay more than $14 million in settlements, and Dauphin County, Pa., recently agreed to a $2 million settlement. Philadelphia has dramatically reduced the number of people being stripped. Those arrested on drug or weapons charges still can be strip- searched. For most minor offenses, city prisons use metal scanners and mechanical drug sniffers to check for contraband.