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Chicopee Women's Jail Sued By Ex-Inmates

Two former inmates at a western Massachusetts women's jail have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the videotaping of female detainees by male guards during strip searches is degrading and unconstitutional.

The suit filed Thursday by lawyers for two former inmates names as defendants Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe Jr. and Superintendent Patricia Murphy. The sheriff's office runs the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee.

A lawyer for the women says many inmates have mental health issues or are victims of sexual abuse and the practice "violates ... basic human dignity."

"Videotaping is probably against common sense, but having males do the videotaping violates the constitution," said Howard Friedman, who is representing the women.

Murphy says taping happens only 8 or 9 times per month and ensures the safety of inmates and guards.

"We always try to make sure there's a woman on camera, however, if we do not have enough women on shift, a male officer might be asked to operate the camera," Murphy said.

She says men only tape inmates from the neck up.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

This program aired on September 15, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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