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Nearly 500 people who claim they were strip searched without cause in Massachusetts have settled with the Franklin County Jail for $1.1 million. A federal magistrate approved the settlement, entitling each of the wrongfully searched and detained members of the class-action lawsuit to $3,500. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Howard Friedman alleged that the Mass. strip search suit was filed because the plaintiffs were unconstitutionally searched by authorities who had no valid basis to believe that the people being arrested had weapons or drugs.
Gregory Garvey of Sunderland originally filed the claim against the jail, which later grew into a class-action lawsuit. The Republican reports that Garvey was strip-searched after an arrest for failing to appear in court on a traffic violation. After being held overnight he was strip-searched again before a court appearance. At the court appearance, his case was dismissed. According to the members of the class, this type of abuse was not uncommon at the Franklin County Jail.
District Court Magistrate Judge reviewed the settlement and gave his stamp of approval, "I find that it is fair and reasonable," Judge Neiman said.
According to David Lanoie, jail superintendent, the searches were conducted to protect the inmates and staff due to an antiquated facility. Lanoie said that now that a more modern jail has opened the strict searching policy has ended. Lanoie further remarked that he is happy that the case is over, the Boston Herald reports.
The court has scheduled a final hearing on the fairness of the settlement for Jan. 14, 2011. If the court grants approval, money will be sent to class members who submit claim forms.
The class includes anyone strip-searched without reasonable suspicion, prior to a first court appearance or before bail had been set, without being arrested on charges involving weapon, drugs, contraband or a violent felony. The period for the class is between March 28, 2004, and Feb. 24, 2007. Class members must submit claim forms by October 11. The form can be obtained at www.FranklinCountyJailClass.com or by writing to the Garvey Claims Administrator, PO Box 2007, Chanhassen, MN 55317-2007.