Newark, NJ (PRWEB) March 27, 2008
New York Attorney Susan Chana Lask announced today a major victory for civil rights and prison policy changes in the State of New Jersey. There are 13 Federal Districts in the United States and all but the District of New Jersey have certified prison strip search class actions. Now, New Jersey District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Case Number 05-3619 granted the first New Jersey class-action status to Ms. Lask's strip search lawsuit and granted her class action counsel. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Albert Florence and tens of thousands of men and women charged with a minor offenses since 2005 who were and are being strip searched by Burlington County Jail and Essex County Correctional Facility. See the decision and Ms. Lask's Brief at http://www.appellate-brief.com/media/Florence-CvRts.html
The Complaint alleges the following:
Albert Florence was driving through Burlington County in 2005 when during a routine traffic stop the officer found a warrant against him for failure to pay an Essex County court fine. Despite his providing proof of a court document that he satisfied the fine, he was arrested and taken to Burlington County Jail to wait for Essex County officials to pick him up. Once in Burlington's facility, he was taken to a shower room and ordered to strip naked and turn around naked while the guard looked over his naked body with his arms outstretched. Then he was transported to Essex County's facility where he was again ordered to strip naked in a group of 3-5 men where many guards and other persons looked over their naked bodies, had them turn around and squat and cough as a group. "I was subject to two strip searches for no reason in front of many people for a charge that was found to be a mistake. I was never so humiliated and never want anyone to go through what I experienced," said Albert Florence.
There are two types of charges in New Jersey, "non-indictable" arrests such as minor offenses of failure to pay child support, traffic offenses such as driving while suspended or shoplifting, and "indictable" arrests such as more serious crimes of drug offenses and murder. The Supreme Court of the United States and New Jersey Courts hold that strip searching persons arrested for minor non-indictable charges is unconstitutional unless the prison facility can give a reasonable basis why it is strip searching that person. The reasonable basis requires a written statement that the prison facility suspected the person arrested was concealing drugs, contraband or a weapon. During discovery in this case, Class Counsel Susan Chana Lask found that Burlington and Essex County facilities strip search everyone, no matter what their charge is and they do not list any reason why they do it. "That means you can be arrested for failing to pay a traffic ticket and the next thing you know you're standing stripped naked next to a felony drug dealer to your right and a murderer to your left, while guards look you up and down naked and make you squat and cough. It's degrading and its unconstitutional," said class counsel Susan Chana Lask.
The class action demands an injunction against the Counties' blanket policies of strip searching, revising the prison policies of blanket strip searches and seeks damages for every man and woman charged with a minor offense who was strip searched since 2005.
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