The Cook County sheriff's department plans to
appeal a jury's finding that its jail officers subjected inmates to
cruel, unreasonable and discriminatory strip searches over a two-year
The verdict comes just six months after a federal judge
said that the unconstitutional practice dates back to the beginning of
"Strip searches are a common practice at every jail and
prison in the U.S. and because of that and federal appellate rulings
we've seen, we believe this case is ripe for appeal," department
spokesman Steve Patterson said in a statement.
testimony and facts in the case, we believe the jail's correctional
officers and staff acted appropriately and did not violate anyone's
constitutional rights in conducting searches for weapons or contraband
before placing them into jail custody," Patterson said.
Thursday, a jury found the department guilty of misconduct based on
accusations in a class-action suit that employees used sexually
degrading language and inappropriately touched the genitals of male
arrestees during the searches. The department was accused of conducting
searches in open hallways that had vomit and feces on the floors.
In addition, the lawsuit alleged that some arrestees were beaten.
representing the class say that they will seek a trial to determine
damages for about 500,000 illegal strip searches conducted at the jail
over two years.
The jury's ruling follows U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly's
decision in February of this year to grant summary judgment to the
plaintiffs on claims that inmates were needlessly humiliated during
searches that occurred from January 2004 to February 2007, the
plaintiffs' attorneys said. Thursday's jury decision considered
allegations that the unconstitutional searches continued from February
2007 to March 2009.
In response to the verdict, the sheriff's department said that Sheriff Thomas J. Dart
installed body-scanning machines in the jail in August 2007, which
started an initiative to eliminate strip searches. After the County
Board approved funding for more machines, the entire jail complex began
using them in March.
Now the department only conducts strip
searches when an officer has "significant probable cause" to believe
that an arrestee has contraband or a weapon, Patterson said.
course," Patterson said, "the elimination of strip searching at the
jail hasn't been without its problems, as earlier this year a Chicago
man was able to smuggle a gun into the complex. That's why we remain
confident in our practices and in our plans for appeal."
The class was represented by Michael Kanovitz, Roshna B. Keen and Samantha A. Liskow of Loevy & Loevy. They were assisted by attorneys Cindy Tsai and Julie M. Thompson.
The sheriff's department was represented by Assistant State's Attorney Francis J. Catania; and Daniel F. Gallagher, Larry S. Kowalczyk and Dominick L. Lanzito of Querrey & Harrow Ltd.
Kim Young, et al. v. County of Cook, et al., No. 06 C552.firstname.lastname@example.org