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Bullock v. Sheahan

July 30, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo


Plaintiffs Quentin Bullock and Jack Reid, individually and on behalf of a class (collectively "plaintiffs") have brought this suit challenging the constitutionality of defendants Michael Sheahan and Cook County's (collectively "defendants") policy and/or practice under which male inmates, in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDC"), were subjected to strip searches upon returning to the CCDC for out-processing after being ordered released. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and defendants' motion is denied.


Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution based on the defendants' policy and/or practice under which male inmates were subjected to strip searches upon returning to the CCDC for out-processing after being ordered released. Specifically, at the time they were strip searched, plaintiffs Bullock and Reid had been ordered released after being found not guilty of the charges against them.

The following facts are not in dispute. All CCDC inmates, including those ordered discharged in court, are required to return to the jail before being released. All inmates returning to the jail after their court appearances (hereinafter "returns") are placed in holding cells located within the Receiving, Classification and Diagnosis Center ("RCDC") of the jail prior to being brought back to their respective housing divisions within the jail. The CCDC has several housing divisions which house different groups or classifications of inmates (i.e. maximum, medium, minimum security). Each of these divisions has its own separate building on the jail grounds. There are two housing divisions for women. The RCDC is located in the basement of Division Five and is the nerve center of the jail for inmate transport, as all inmates who enter or exit the jail are processed at some point in the RCDC, as well as inmates who are transferred between housing divisions. The inmates are placed in bullpens within the RCDC. Aside from the smaller bullpens A, B, C, and D, the male intake area of the RCDC has six additional larger bullpens, numbered 1-6. Some of the larger numbered bullpens can house 150 to 200 inmates.

After their court appearance, every inmate is given a court order called a mittimus. A mittimus indicates the disposition of an inmate's criminal case to the Department of Corrections. This document indicates if the inmate is a "possible discharge." Among the returns, the jail identifies any mittimus which indicates a possible discharge and that document is taken to the Records Department. Any inmate ordered discharged remains in custody until the Sheriff determines that there are no other cases or holds which would prevent the inmate from being released. The jail staff checks CIMIS, the jail's computerized record keeping system, in order to determine whether a court discharge has other cases which would require continued detention. In the meantime, the returns are placed in the bullpens within the RCDC.

As of March 2008, the jail housed 9,165 inmates. Of these, 8,436 were male and 729 were female. Approximately 800 to 1,200 inmates go to court on any given weekday. The inmates are transported by bus to different courts. The ratio of male to female inmates is greater than 9 to 1. The same 9 to 1 male to female ratio applies to inmates going to court on a given day. There can be as many as 5 to 6 times more men than women discharged from the jail on any particular day and on average during the year. Approximately 120 female inmates go to court on a daily basis and approximately 30 to 40 female inmates are court discharges. The male returns arrive at the jail throughout the day, commencing approximately at 10:30 or 11 a.m. until as late as 7 or 8 p.m. The return of male discharges is staggered over the period of 8 or 9 hours.

As a matter of practice and policy, male and female returns are strip searched only upon their return to their respective housing divisions within the jail, not the RCDC. Inmates are returned to the housing divisions when the transportation officers from the inmates' respective housing divisions come to pick them up from the RCDC. This can occur approximately every 30 to 90 minutes or up to two hours depending on the division. The procedure by which male returns are strip searched consist of the following: (1) the inmates are lined up at arm's length from each other; (2) the inmates are instructed to remove all their clothing; (3) the inmates are then instructed to extend their arms and legs apart; (4) the inmates are then ordered to squat three or four times and cough while squatting. The number of inmates being searched at once varies; there is testimony that as many as 50 to 80 male inmates have been searched together.

The policy and practice of strip searching male returns differs from that for female returns. It is the policy and practice of the Sheriff not to give male returns who are to be discharged an option to avoid being strip searched. In contrast, the jail has a specific procedure in place for female returns who are to be discharged which affords them the option of not being strip searched. Under this procedure, once it is determined that a female return is a possible discharge by the RCDC staff, she is segregated from the general return population by being placed in a separate bullpen within the RCDC. The female return remains in the separate bullpen until a computer and records check is completed to determine whether the inmate is in fact a discharge. Any detainees who are determined not to be discharges are removed from the discharge bullpen and placed in the general population return bullpen. If a female detainee is determined to be a discharge and elects not to return to her housing division, then the Records Department notifies the appropriate housing division that their clothes be brought to the RCDC. Within the month of October 2003, the average time for female inmates to be discharged was within two hours after returning from court. The average longest discharge time was 2:42 and the average shortest time was 1:10 for that time period.

When female discharges are strip searched they are placed in a location with privacy dividers among the inmates. These dividers or privacy screens do not allow inmates to see each other during the strip search. During the time that the class members were strip searched, the CCDC did not use dividers to afford any privacy to the male discharges. In February 2007, the Sheriff installed privacy screens similar to those used to search female inmates for searching new inmates (or "arrestees") arriving to the jail. Up to 37 new male inmates can be strip searched at a time with the privacy screens, and approximately 200 to 350 new male inmates are processed into the jail on a daily basis. Also since 2007, defendants have been using privacy screens when the putative class members were returned to their housing divisions and strip searched. Defendants contend this is a "pilot program," but it is implemented for all court returns and inmates housed in all divisions.


Summary judgment is appropriate where the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Boumehdi v. Plastag Holdings, LLC, 489 F.3d 781, 787 (7th Cir. 2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). I must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).


The class certified in this case on June 17, 2005 is defined as follows:

All male inmates who, on or after February 12, 2002, have been subjected to defendants' policy and practice of strip searching a male inmate upon his return to the jail following a court appearance at which court appearance a specific case or charge against the inmate was dismissed when no other cases, charges, warrants or holds were pending against that inmate which warranted that inmate's continued detention at the jail.

(Order dated 6/17/05, Doc. Entry # 72.) Plaintiffs' motion seeks summary judgment on the following claims:

1. The strip searching of all male court discharges and not all female court discharges violates ...

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