University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Cruz v. Vasquez JC-CA-0019
Docket / Court 5:95-cv-20776-RMW ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
In 1995, several women, former jail inmates, filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the district court for the Northern District of California, alleging that they had been sexually assaulted and harassed while incarcerated in the the Correctional Center for Women at Milpitas (the jail). The ... read more >
In 1995, several women, former jail inmates, filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the district court for the Northern District of California, alleging that they had been sexually assaulted and harassed while incarcerated in the the Correctional Center for Women at Milpitas (the jail). The defendants were the Santa Clara County, California, Board of Supervisors and Department of Corrections.

After the suit was filed, thirty-five additional former prisoners came forward with similar complaints and the suit was accordingly expanded, eventually becoming a class action. In 1999, another sixteen female prisoners came forward with similar complaints; however, the magistrate judge (Chief Magistrate Judge Edward Infante) did not allow them to be included to the lawsuit. (Nonetheless, when the case settled, the plaintiffs' attorneys were allowed to negotiate a settlement for the additional sixteen prisoners.)

The suit alleged that male guards watched female prisoners while they showered, searched female prisoners in the middle of the night, groping and fondling them, rubbed their bodies against those of the female prisoners, made explicit sexual advances toward the female prisoners, recited female prisoners' personal information (such as license plate numbers, addresses and phone numbers of them and their relatives) in an attempt to coerce them into having a sexual relationship, and entered the prisoners' cells unaccompanied by other guardsin violation of Section 4021 of the California Penal Code. A female prisoner also claimed that she was repeatedly forced to engage in sexual activity with a guard.

The suit sought monetary damages, an injunction against male guards searching female prisoners or entering their cells without a female guard present, and changes to the jail's shower and toilet facilities to increase privacy.

In response to the suit, the defendants installed higher shower stall doors, covered windows in holding cells, installed new toilet partitions, instituted sexual harassment prevention programs, began installing observation cameras throughout the women's facility, agreed to ban male guards from stripsearching women prisoners, and fired two guards. One of the fired guards was later convicted of having sex with a prisoner.

Other guards were reprimanded and transferred. The defendants also settled the suit by paying the initial forty plaintiffs $880,000, including attorney fees, and paying the additional sixteen prisoners $150,000, including attorney fees. A previous payment of $150,000 brought the total to $1.18 million, including a total of $200,000 in attorney fees.

Margo Schlanger - 12/18/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Santa Clara County (Cal.)
Plaintiff Description Women prisoners who suffered from sexual harassment and abuse by male officers at the Santa Clara County Women's Correctional Facility in Milpitas, California
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2000
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:95-cv-20776-RMW (N.D. Cal.) 04/30/2001
JC-CA-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection
Judges Whyte, Ronald M. (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Lucas, Patricia Mary (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Pearl, Richard M (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Price, Patricia G. (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Boley, Todd Alexander (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Brown, Craig (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Joo, Sandy E. (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Landsness, Gordon David (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Ravel, Ann Miller (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Rumble, James E (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000
Woodside, Steven M. (California)
JC-CA-0019-9000 | JC-CA-0019-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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