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Texas lock-ups part of GEO Group strip search class action settlement

Several current and former Texas GEO faciltiies are subject to a class action lawsuit settlement challenging the company's strip search policy of low-level inmates.  I first saw the story as part of a Philadelphia Inquirer story ("Settlement reached over Delco Prison strip-searches," May 20),

A company that formerly operated the Delaware County Prison has settled a federal class-action lawsuit involving strip-searches of incoming inmates charged with minor crimes.

The $2.9 million settlement awards up to $400 each to about 10,000 inmates at six GEO Group facilities.

Prisoners at the Delaware County facility, now operated by Community Education Centers of West Caldwell, N.J., who were strip-searched between Jan. 30, 2006, and Jan. 30, 2008, may be eligible for settlement awards.  The lawsuit named five other GEO Group prisons, in Texas, New Mexico, and Illinois.

... Those eligible to apply for settlement include prisoners who were not accused of drug, weapons, or violent crimes; those involving probation or parole violations; and those who did not behave in a manner that would give guards cause to conduct strip searches.

According to Class Action Lawsuits in the News ("The GEO Group Jail, Correctional Facility & Detention Center Strip Search Class Action Lawsuit Settlement," May 24), those eligible for the settlement payment include folks who were strip-searched for minor infractions at the Frio County Detention Center in Pearsall, the Dickens County Detention Center (now operated by CEC) in Dickens, and the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton between January 30, 2006 to January 30, 2008.  According to the site:

The GEO Group Jail Strip Search class action settlement, if finally approved by the Court, reportedly would entitle each settlement class member who submits a timely (by September 14, 2010) and valid claim form to a payment of up to $400.00 as their share of a $2.999 million Settlement Fund (after payment of administrative costs, an incentive award to the representative plaintiffs, and attorneys’ fees).

In addition, the GEO Group has agreed to revise its allegedly unlawful strip search policy going forward, and has agreed to an injunction to ensure that detainees being admitted to the Jails are only strip searched where there is reasonable suspicion to justify the search.

Settlement information is at www.multistatestripsearchsettlement.com.

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