Strip Search Victims Awarded $500 Each

September 23, 2010

Federal Judge Denis Hurley has ruled that Nassau County must pay at least $500 apiece to approximately 20,000 victims of illegal strip searches at a Long Island jail.

As I previously wrote in a prior post, Nassau County is a defendant in a class action law suit by people who were strip searched after being arrested for misdemeanor and less serious offenses.

Judge Hurley wrote in his decision that “Each class member suffered the same injury to human dignity inherent in the loss of the right to determine which individual or individuals may visually inspect that member’s naked body, particularly his or her sexual organs, and under what circumstances.”

The law suits started back in 1999, when Nassau County changed its policy of strip searching everyone  in order to keep contraband out of the jail.

Although all of the victims were awarded $500 each, the Judge will allow the jury to consider damages to individuals claiming particular “shame, humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress,” according to Plaintiffs’ lawyer Robert Herbst.

As Long Island newspaper Newsday reports, Hurley recognized in his ruling that it is rare to award general damages for constitutional violations separate from specific injuries to individuals.  But, he said, “It is hard to believe that the grievous affront to human dignity occasioned by being subjected to an unlawful visual body cavity search would not warrant an award considerably in excess of nominal damages.”

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