Strip searches unconstitutional at county jail

A federal judge ruled this week that strip searches of male inmates released by court order from Cook County Jail are unconstitutional.

A federal judge ruled this week that strip searches of male inmates released by court order from Cook County Jail are unconstitutional. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo is in response to a class action lawsuit filed by inmate advocate, Thomas Morrissey. The suit affects roughly 150,000 male inmates who were strip searched at the jail in the past six years. A trial date will now be set to determine any monetary damages, which legal experts estimate could cost county taxpayers well over $10 million. A similar lawsuit was filed on behalf of female inmates in 1996 and was eventually settled in 2001 for a little over $6 million. Morrissey, who originally filed the class action suit in 2004, was unavailable for comment. Steve Puiszis, an attorney with the Chicago law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP who represented the county in the lawsuit, said the county is considering all options, including an appeal. “I expect us to head back to court to be heard on our motion to have the court reconsider its decision in the next month,” Puiszis said. “They do it all the time and could care less about your civil rights,” said Byron Holmes, 33, who spent six months at Cook County Jail in 2007 on an aggravated criminal sexual assault charge. He was strip searched while in jail, but his case ended up being dismissed. “The case was thrown out after the state’s attorney realized that my ex-girlfriend was lying about me raping her because I had left her for another woman.” ______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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