updated 10/5/2007 10:05:43 PM ET 2007-10-06T02:05:43

About 150,000 inmates charged with misdemeanors who were improperly strip searched at a New York City jail over the past five years are eligible to receive a few thousand dollars each under the settlement of a lawsuit against the city's Department of Correction.

Richard D. Emery had filed the lawsuit accusing the city of reneging on a deal that barred strip searches of inmates charged with misdemeanors who were brought to the city's main jail at Rikers Island.

The inmates are sometimes held at the jail awaiting trial if they cannot post bail. Strip searches were part of the procedure workers used to process new inmates at the Rikers Island jail

The settlement was reached Thursday just as a civil trial was set to begin in Manhattan federal court, Emery said.

The inmates each stand to collect from $3,000 to $4,000 under the settlement, but Emery said he expected fewer than 25 percent of the inmates will bother to collect the money because many former prisoners cannot be located or do not respond.

The settlement also calls for the city to train all the jail workers who process new inmates and change written policy to reflect that people arrested on misdemeanor charges are not to be strip searched unless authorities believe they are hiding a controlled substance.

It also called for signs to be posted at city jails advising misdemeanor detainees that they do not have to submit to strip searches.

A similar agreement was reached in 2002 that would have given inmates disposable paper gowns to wear during searches, but not enough gowns were ordered. That deal awarded damages of up to $1,000 each for inmates who were improperly searched.

Emery said the small size of that award and the continued failure of the city to abide by the agreement led to the second lawsuit.

"The most offensive thing is that 150,000 people were degraded and humiliated when the law was clear they should have been protected," he said.

A message left for comment with the city law office Friday was not immediately returned.

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