The city is paying out a reported $15 million in a settlement with about 22,000 people arrested for loitering. Money distributed from the class-action suit could reach people who were arrested as far back as 1983.

In 2010, a judge found the city in contempt for enforcing laws that banned loitering and panhandling. The original laws were passed back in 1964 but were found to be in violation of the First Amendment rights of individuals in the 1980s. However, before the court ruled the laws unconstitutional, 22,000 people were arrested. Of that number, 6,000 were prosecuted in court.

Several reports indicate that certain people were targeted for the unjust arrests, including gays, the homeless, people of color and poor people. Individuals who were arrested were fined as much as $10,000, depending on their case.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, an attorney for the class-action suit, said that the NYPD failed to train or discipline officers who violated the constitutional rights of more than 20,000 innocent citizens for decades.

“Make no mistake, it happened because the victims were uniformly poor and disenfranchised,” he said.

Several of those arrested and charged for loitering felt the effects of having a criminal record. Many were unable to get jobs or access to services because of loitering on their rap sheet.

“After courts struck down these loitering laws as unconstitutional, the NYPD should never have charged a single person under them,” said Katherine Rosenfeld, one of the lead attorneys. “Instead, thousands of New Yorkers were arrested and forced to defend themselves in court, and even serve time in jail, for completely legal behavior. Many people arrested were doing nothing more than peacefully asking for change on a public sidewalk.”

In approximately three months, a notice and claim form will be sent to all 22,000 people in the class. Class members must return the claim form to be eligible for payment.

J. McGregor Smyth, a member of the Bronx Defenders and another lead attorney for the class, said, “The NYPD used these void laws over the past three decades to target people based on poverty, race and sexual orientation. We are happy that the city has finally taken responsibility for these abuses, agreeing to pay meaningful damages to its victims and to stop its unconstitutional practices once and for all.”