ALFRED (AP) – A Boston attorney believes there may be as many as 8,000 people eligible for a class-action lawsuit against York County Jail alleging the jail’s strip-and-shower policy violated federal law.

The lawsuit, filed in 2002, contends that the York County Sheriff’s Office violated the law by requiring all persons brought into the jail to strip and shower in front of an officer.

According to court documents, the jail’s policy requires an officer be present during the shower as part of a search for contraband materials.

The case was originally filed by Michele Nilsen, of North Andover, Mass., who alleged she was subjected to the strip-and-shower policy after being arrested for driving with a suspended driver’s license.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cohen last year recommended certification of the case as a class-action lawsuit for anyone who has been subjected to the practice since Oct. 14, 1996, meeting a six-year statute of limitations.

Attorney Howard Friedman said a list provided by the jail likely represents only about half of those held during that time period. “Maybe the list isn’t accurate, so by publishing the notice, it lets others know,” Friedman said.

A court-ordered mediation in the lawsuit is scheduled next week.

Freidman said if the jail’s motion for summary judgement is denied, a trial for liability as early as this winter could establish an amount for damages.

“If there are over 8,000 members, we can be talking about a lot of damages here,” Friedman said. “There are several ways it could go.”

There was no answer at the York County Jail Monday night to determine if the strip-and-shower procedure is still done routinely.

AP-ES-09-14-04 0216EDT

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