September 2005 - Our settlement with Jackson County officials over a strip search of female inmates that occurred two years ago has now been finalized. As part of the settlement, Jackson County agreed to pay monetary awards to fourteen women who were inmates at the time and the Jackson County Sheriff agreed to make changes in county jail search policies.

ACLU volunteer cooperating attorneys Keith Dubanevich and Celia Howes of Garvey Schubert Barer, represented thirteen of the women who were inmates in the Jackson County jail on September 20, 2003. That evening, guards received a tip that a female inmate was hiding a razor blade in a bathroom.

All of the female inmates were then taken to a recreation room while their cells and bathrooms were searched. While in the recreation room, guards required each woman to submit to a strip search—even though guards quickly found the razor blade where the informant had said they would.

In addition to the women being observed by guards and other female inmates throughout the strip searches, they were also observed by some male inmates because of a malfunctioning window blind between the men’s cells and the recreation room. Women inmates, who noticed the male inmates watching, tried to shield their colleagues, but were prevented by the guards. As you can imagine, virtually all of the women were extremely distressed by the experience that clearly violated their constitutional rights.

Prior to filing a lawsuit, ACLU’s attorneys contacted the legal counsel for Jackson County who quickly agreed to work to settle the case. The Jackson County Sheriff and Commissioners worked cooperatively to change jail policies so that this type of incident will not be repeated. In addition to the policy changes, each woman was paid a modest cash settlement and the County will provide some mental health counseling to those women who wish to utilize that service.