On January 30, 2008, two arrestees detained at jails operated by the Geo Group Inc., a private corrections management company, filed a nationwide 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that the Geo Group, Inc. engaged in improper strip-search practices at its facilities in violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights.
The Geo Group, Inc. manages numerous correctional, detention, mental health, and residential treatment facilities in the United States and operated the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thornton, Pennsylvania under a contract with Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The Plaintiffs were arrested and brought to the George W. Hill Correctional Facility where they were allegedly strip-searched without reasonable suspicion in front of other inmates pursuant to the Geo Group’s blanket policy of strip-searching every pre-trial detainee that entered its facilities, regardless of the crime charged and without making a determination whether there was a reasonable suspicion that the detainee possessed weapons or contraband.
The Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory, monetary, and injunctive relief, as well as class certification. Specifically, the Plaintiff's requested monetary damages for Fourth Amendment violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, declaratory judgment as to the Fourth Amendment violations, and preliminary and permanent injunctions as to the Fourth Amendment violations. Additionally, the Plaintiff's brought claims under state law for battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
On May 2, 2008, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. The Plaintiffs did not oppose the motion. On May 30, 2008, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Judge Jan E. Dubois) granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss.
On September 18, 2008, the Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. On March 25, 2009, the District Court (Judge Dubois) denied the Defendant's motion. Allison v. Geo Group, Inc., 611 F. Supp. 2d 433 (E.D.Pa. 2009)
On March 1, 2010 the parties reached a settlement agreement. The terms of the settlement provided that since January 31, 2008 the Defendant stopped strip-searching without reasonable suspicion, and the Defendant instituted new strip search policies that are constitutional. All officers and employees will have access and training regarding the Defendant's strip search policy. An injunction order to ensure the Defendant's compliance with the revised strip search policy will remain in force for eighteen months from the date of the final approval of the settlement. Additionally, the settlement entitled each class member to a share of the $2.999 million settlement.
The approved settlement class is described as follows: All persons who were placed into the custody of one or more of the Jails after being detained for misdemeanors, summary offenses, or other crimes that did not involve the possession or distribution of drugs, possession of weapons, crimes of violence, or felonies, who had no history of such charges, and did not behave in a manner at intake that would give intake officers reasonable suspicion that the inmate was carrying or concealing contraband, but were strip searched upon their admission into one or more of the Jails pursuant to Defendants’ then existing strip search policy.
The Class Period is from January 30, 2006 to January 30, 2008 for George W. Hill Correctional Facility, Frio County Detention Center, Dickens County Detention Center, Tri-County Detention Center, and Newton County Correctional Center, and from January 30, 2005 to January 30, 2008 for Guadalupe County Correctional Facility.
On October 22, 2010 the District Court (Judge Dubois) granted final approval regarding the settlement agreement.Joe Reiter - 04/08/2011