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home : news : north central illinois   April 29, 2016

10/9/2013 7:40:00 AM
Five more women claim civil rights abuse at county jail


La Salle County Jail shown here is the site of where Coal City resident Dana Holmes claims correctional officers illegally performed a strip-search on her after she was brought there on a driving under the influence charge. Five more women are said to have contacted an attorney claiming jailors infringed upon their civil rights.NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
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La Salle County Jail shown here is the site of where Coal City resident Dana Holmes claims correctional officers illegally performed a strip-search on her after she was brought there on a driving under the influence charge. Five more women are said to have contacted an attorney claiming jailors infringed upon their civil rights.

NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Kevin Caufield
NewsTribune Reporter



OTTAWA — Five more women have contacted a Lisle-based attorney alleging they too were forcibly strip-searched inside La Salle County Jail.
In response, Lisle-based attorney Terry Ekl filed in federal court Tuesday a “protective order” which bars La Salle County from destroying any video recordings it currently possesses.
“After the Dana Holmes case was made public, five more women have contacted my office,” Ekl said. “We are currently looking into their claims, but no additional lawsuits have been filed against La Salle County.”
Holmes, 33, of Coal City, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago alleging her civil rights were violated May 18 when she was arrested for DUI in Marseilles and then brought to the jail.
There, she alleges, a female deputy and three male deputies placed her on the floor of a padded cell and removed her clothes. Holmes was later given a blanket, with which she covered herself during booking and fingerprinting.
The incident was video recorded and edited excerpts have been broadcast on a variety of national media outlets.
Holmes was sentenced in August to court supervision, a non-reporting form of probation, on the DUI conviction, La Salle County Circuit Court records show.
Court dates on the federal lawsuit are pending in Chicago.
La Salle County officials have yet to respond to the accusations.

Strip search legalese
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that arresting authorities may conduct strip searches for any offense, however minor, before admitting detainees into correctional facilities such as jails. Also, they may do so without suspicion the detainee is carrying contraband.
The court gave broad authority to correctional officers to decide the manner in which strip searches are conducted “if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests,” according to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion. Additionally, the ruling states “substantial evidence” must be provided to prove correctional officers overstepped their authority.
Illinois law differs from the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Illinois statute, no arrested person shall be strip searched unless there is a reasonable belief that the individual “is concealing a weapon or controlled substance.” It also requires strip searches to be conducted by persons of the same sex as the arrested person and on premises where the search cannot be observed by persons not physically conducting the search.
Under the Illinois strip search law, an officer must get written permission from an officer in charge and authorization to perform the strip search. The officer must also prepare a report of the strip search.
Ekl said Holmes was not an inmate, but a “pass-through” detainee who was brought back to La Salle County so that her bond could be posted.
“The federal court has made careful distinction on who these laws apply to,” Ekl said. “This wasn’t a strip-search because they never searched for anything. This was a strip.”
The NewsTribune on Monday filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county to examine policies, procedures and protocols pertaining to strip-searches performed within the jail. The county has five business days to comply, and can request an additional five business days under the law.
“It will be interesting to see what those protocols are,” Ekl said. “They didn’t stand around and talk about whether or not to do this. It looks like they were performing a standard policy.”

A no-win for taxpayers?
Anonymous sources within the county board and administration have expressed concerns the county and taxpayers may be in a no-win situation financially. While they are confident the correctional officers acted within the law, the question becomes how much taxpayer money do they spend in court to prove it?
Sources would not go on the record because the Holmes case is under litigation. But they did question whether it is prudent to settle the lawsuit and thereby save taxpayer money while appearing guilty. Or should the county see it through at great taxpayer expense confident the correctional officers will be vindicated while sending the message the county will fight frivolous lawsuits?

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or countyreporter@newstrib.com








Related Stories:
• Woman sues La Salle County sheriff, jailers over strip search (with video)





Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

And to even SLIGHTLY intimate that this is a frivolous lawsuit has never experienced unearned torture, violence, or an aggressive attack against them, family or friend.

To make such a statement is the height of insensitivity, coldness, and utter disrespect for humanity.

For shame.


Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

If this indeed lawful, than in my opinion, and many others, the law should be changed.
I cannot fathom that citizens are treated in such manner legally.

Anonymous county board members and administrators, how would you feel if it were you, your family, or your friends subjected to this treatment?

As far as taxpayer funds are concerned, no threat of money will deter the proper treatment of people. If these "anonymous" ones do not hold this value, please make it public, so that the voters can properly reward you with an informed vote.


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