WASHINGTON (CN) – A class action claims the District of Columbia routinely keeps inmates in its jail beyond their court-mandated sentences and subjects them body cavity searches and other indignities during these prolonged detentions.
In a complaint filed Dec. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lead plaintiff Richard Jones says that after a hearing in federal court in December 2015, a judge ordered his release, but instead of immediately being freed he was taken back to jail where he was held for several more hours.
During this time, Jones says, he was returned to the jail’s general population and subjected to a strip search and visual body cavity search without cause.
He says this happened because elected officials and those who run the jail on a day-to-day basis have a “deliberate indifference to the effect of the practice of blanket strip searches and visual body cavity searches on the rights of inmates.”
The class action says Jones’s experience was not unique, and that the D.C. Department of Corrections has a long history of holding inmates beyond their expected release dates.
“Although the District had agreed to stop these practices, and indeed had done so in the context of the settlement of Bynum v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 02-956 (RCL) and Barnes v. District of Columbia, 06-315 (RCL), the practices stop have not stopped based on public filings and discussions with attorneys practicing in the District courts,” the complaint says.
Jones says he’s filed the lawsuit on behalf of two classes: The “over detained,” the lawsuit’s description of those kept past their release dates and the “strip search class.”
He says the District of Columbia’s policies regarding inmates have negatively affected all members of both classes, and he claims injunctive relief would benefit both.
He also suggests the court appoint an independent monitor to oversee the corrections department “to ensure that all inmates are released on or before their release dates.”
Jones also seeks unspecified compensatory and consequential damages.
He is represented by William Clairborne of Washington, D.C.
Representatives of the District of Columbia did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment.