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