Cook County is paying out $55 million to people who were strip searched while being processed into the county jail.
The settlement follows a trial from the summer of 2009 in which a jury found that the Cook County Sheriff's department violated the rights of thousands of prisoners admitted to the jail. The department had a practice of strip searching all incoming inmates, and those searches took place in an open hallway, filled with men standing naked, shoulder to shoulder. Cavity searches were also performed on all the men in that same crowded hallway.
The $55 million settlement will be split among 250,000 prisoners subjected to the searches between 2004 and 2009. In a written statement Sheriff Tom Dart said, "The vast majority of this money will go to the lawyers and not the detainees. In fact, the amount each detainee could actually see is very small – in most cases, just a few hundred bucks – compared to the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars that will be reaped by these lawyers."
Dart also said that over the last two years they've installed body scanners which largely eliminate the need for strip searches so that they're done only when the scanners raise a concern.
The Cook County State's attorneys office was not immediately available for comment.