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$13.5 Million Florida Jail Strip Search Settlement

Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it illegally strip searched prisoners charged with minor offenses. The settlement ends a class action filed in state court in 2002. Under the settlement, each class member will receive up to $1,000.

The class is defined as any person who submitted to strip searches after December 13, 1998, and before October 5, 2007. To be included in the settlement, class members must have been imprisoned at the Broward County Jail on a traffic, regulatory, or misdemeanor offense that was not violent in nature, involved a weapon, or involved a controlled substance.

Any of those persons who were strip searched without probable cause they were concealing weapons, drugs, or contraband; or who were searched at the jail despite a judge granting release on recognizance or bond is entitled to take part in the settlement, the settlement, however, limits payment to a single person without regard to the number of times arrested or strip searched under the jail’s illegal policy. In other words, the maximum payment is $1,000.

The class representatives, Martha Echeverry and Daisy Cole, were granted $50,000 because of the substantial assistance they rendered counsel in bringing and prosecuting the lawsuit. The April 17, 2008, settlement also awards defense counsel $2.5 million. Members of the class had until September 8, 2008, to file a claim under the settlement. See: Echeverry v. County of Broward, Fla. 17th Judicial Circuit Court, Case No: 02-23326.

While that lawsuit is settled, Broward County still faces a negligence lawsuit from the family of Dana Clyde Jones, who suffered severe brain injuries at the Broward County Jail on December 16, 2005. Jones, who was mentally ill, was found lying in a pool of blood next to his bunk. He spent months in a coma-like state. He is now conscious, but cannot walk or talk. He must be fed though a tube.

It is disputed whether Jones was beat or if he slipped and fell. One prisoner said guards incited other prisoners to beat Jones because he made a vulgar remark to a female guard. The Jones lawsuit caused a deposition of former sheriff Ken Jones.

In order to take Jenne’s testimony, lawyers had to travel to a federal prison in Virginia. The lawyers learned that Jenne has a full time job growing vegetable in the prison’s garden. As PLN previously reported, Jenne was sentenced to a year and a day for corruption and using county resources for his personal business.

In the deposition, Jenne said the jail was not his responsibility. “My job was never to play correctional or detention deputy,” he said. PLN will report developments in the Jones suit.

Source: Miami Herald

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Related legal case

Echeverry v. County of Broward