Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Miami-Dade Pays $6.25 Million to Settle Illegal Strip Search Suit

A Florida federal district court has approved a $6.25 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging thousands of female prisoners were illegally strip searched at the Miami-Dade County Correctional Facilities.

The settlement entitles l0,000 women who were strip searched after being picked up on prostitution or other minor charges to receive payments of $1,000 to $3,000. An additional 100,000 women and some men who were arrested on more serious charges, and strip searched without advanced written authorization as required by state law are entitled to $10 each.
The lawsuit originated after three female protesters were arrested during the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas Conference. One of them, Judy Haney of Oakland, California, was arrested in Miami on November 31, 2003. The 50-year-old Haney was charged with failing to disperse.
After being up frisked and taken to Miami Dade's Women's Detention's Center, Haney was told to remove her clothes. The guard told her to turn around, and bend all the way over and spread my cheeks." Haney was then told to squat and bunny hop" a method of dislodging contraband. When she couldn't remove her navel piercing, the guard came back with large clippers and cut it off.

Haney and the other four women who represented the classLiat Mayer, Jaimie Loughner, Darcy Smith, and Amanda Wellswill divide $300,000.
Total payment for all verified claims is $4.55 million. If claims go higher, payments to class members will be reduced proportionately. Any money remaining after the September 1, 2005, claim deadline returns to the county.

The three attorneys who represent the class will split $1 million legal fees plus $100,000 in costs. The lawyers are Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute in Miami, Mark E. Merin of Dickstein & Merin in Sacramento, California, and Andrew C. Schwartz of Casper, Meadows, and Schwartz of Walnut Creek California. See: Haney v. Miami-Dade County, USDC SD FL, Case No. 04-20516-CIV-Jordan/Brown.
Discovery showed that the strip search of misdemeanants was applied only to women. Said Haney: to perform an unreasonable strip search, which in effect is visual rape, is outrageous enough, but to do it to women only and not to men on the same minor nonviolent charge revealed the practice to be doubly unjust.

On February 8, 2005, Miami-Dade discontinued its blanket strip search policy for prisoners charged with misdemeanors.

Sources: The Miami Herald; Law Com.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Haney v. Miami-Dade County