SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The City of San Francisco may soon pay $450,000 to more than a dozen male and female inmates who were strip-searched in the county jail.

Thirteen men and women are seeking the settlement in a lawsuit that goes back more than a decade. The men and women were arrested for minor offenses, taken to San Francisco County Jail, forced to strip naked and subjected to a search of their body cavities.

The plaintiffs are represented by civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who has challenged strip searches at jails all over the state.

“Even minor crimes like walking a dog without a leash in a park or something of that sort, riding a bicycle against traffic, whatever; if they ended up [being] taken to jail, standard procedure was to strip-search them,” Merin said.

Former Sheriff Michael Hennessey instituted the strip-searches to prevent the smuggling of contraband into the jails. Merin said there was no reason to suspect his clients of such behavior. Hennessey later reversed the policy in the face of legal challenges.

Merin said searching hardened criminals was one thing, but his clients were nothing like that.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera has reached a tentative settlement with the plaintiffs. The settlement will be considered by the Board of Supervisors in February.

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