Judge Hears Arguments in Suit Over Videotaped Strip Searches at Women’s Jail in Western Mass.

epa04148246 A view into a hallway with cell doors at the detention center Landsberg am Lech, Germany, 31 March 2014. German Bayern Munich football club boss Uli Hoeness is expected to serve his three and half years jail sentence at the Landsberg am Lech prison although it is yet unclear when his jail term will begin. A spokesman for the prosecutors office on 17 March said that Hoeness would most likely start his jail term in about six weeks. The written reason for the judgement had to be published first, then the written argument explaining the court's reasoning would take about four weeks to arrive, and the court could then issue paperwork summoning Hoeness to prison, which would take another two weeks. EPA/Stephan Jansen
Stephan Jansen/EPA

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday in a class action lawsuit that alleges the rights of female inmates at a Western Massachusetts jail were violated when male employees videotaped them during strip searches, MassLive reports.

The lawsuit was brought by 178 former and current inmates at the Western Massachusetts Women’s Regional Correctional Center and seeks monetary damages. The suit, originally brought in 2011, was filed against the Hampden county sheriff, Michael J. Ashe, who oversees the Chicopee facility, and an assistant superintendent.

Plaintiffs argue that males being present during searches for contraband, while female inmates are required to follow verbal commands to strip naked and expose folds and orifices on their bodies, is a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.

Officials at the sheriff's department countered that while males may have been present during strip searches, they were expressly forbidden to watch the procedures and routinely adopted awkward physical stances so they could train hand-held cameras on inmates while looking in the opposite direction.

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Both sides also acknowledged that there is a lack of case law on the videotaping issue in this suit. U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor did not immediately rule.