IDOC tactical team performed “shakedowns” that violated Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel & unusual punishment

BENTON, IL (March 26, 2020) – A federal court today granted class certification to a lawsuit by Illinois prisoners who allegedly were “beat, sexually humiliated, and otherwise abused” by Illinois Department of Corrections guards who “gratuitously inflicted punishment for the sole purpose of causing humiliation and needless pain.”

Ross v. Gossett, a suit brought by legal aid nonprofit Uptown People’s Law Center and civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, alleges that an IDOC tactical team known as “Orange Crush” conducted the unconstitutional behavior against hundreds of prisoners during “shakedowns” at four Illinois prisons.

The lawsuit says the shakedowns included tactics such as strip searches of male prisoners in front of women officers, painfully tight handcuffing, standing in “stress positions” for hours, and that officers repeatedly yelled epithets at the prisoners. The suit also details that the Orange Crush tactical team ordered prisoners to march with their heads on the backs of the prisoners ahead of them in line, necessitating that every man’s genitals were in direct contact with the buttocks of the man in front of him, referred to by the team as “Nuts to Butts.”

Judge Staci M. Yandle of the Southern District of Illinois in her ruling today said:

“The named Plaintiffs’ claims, while not identical, are typical of the class. Each alleges that during uniformly executed shakedowns, they and the putative class members, were subjected to humiliating and unsanitary strip searches and line movements and that they were subjected to uncomfortable and painful handcuffing and extended hours of uncomfortable standing or sitting; in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center, said, “At first it was hard to believe these brazenly unconstitutional abuses occurred, but all the evidence we have uncovered proves that they happened. We are thrilled that prisoners will now have a chance to be compensated for the injuries they suffered at the hands of the Orange Crush.”

Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) is a nonprofit legal services organization specializing in prisoners’ rights, Social Security disability, and tenants’ rights and eviction defense. UPLC currently has five class action lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms and has won more multi-million-dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.

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