LA County to pay $53M over strip searches of female inmates

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2010 on behalf of former inmates


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County will pay $53 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged tens of thousands of women were given invasive group strip searches at a jail, according to court filings Tuesday.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2010 on behalf of former inmates who said they were placed in groups of up to 50 and ordered to expose their genitals while deputies shouted degrading comments.

This May 31, 2007, file photo shows the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) in Lynwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
This May 31, 2007, file photo shows the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) in Lynwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

The searches during intake inspections at the Sheriff's Department's Century Regional Detention Facility caused the women trauma and humiliation, the lawsuit said. Many of the examinations occurred at night in a bus garage that was without heaters until 2014, the suit said.

"It's a nightmare I will never forget. I hope no human being has to live through it again," said Mary Amador, a former inmate who's part of the class action.

The county doesn't acknowledge wrongdoing and says the settlement was reached to avoid further legal costs.

In a statement, the county said it is "committed to making sure that reforms instituted by the Sheriff's Department since 2016 will continue to build a culture that prioritizes safety, dignity and respect for inmates and staff."

Since the lawsuit was filed, the jail has implemented body scanners and added privacy curtains when conducting cavity searches.

Barry Litt, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he hopes the settlement's impact will be "a complete transformation of the jail's culture with a considered, gender responsive approach."

The agreement applies to more than 93,000 women jailed between March 2008 and January 2015 at the facility in Lynwood.

The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Associated Press
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