The proposal of Governor's Councillor Michael J. Albano to ban the videotaping of strip searches of women inmates by male correctional officers has gained bipartisan support in the Massachusetts Legislature.
The legislation, while directed at the unconstitutional policy at the Western Mass Regional Woman's Correctional Center in Chicopee, will have statewide implications if enacted by the Legislature and Governor. The Bill was filed by State Representative Kay Khan of Newton at the request of Councillor Albano.
HD 1073 states, in part: Strip searches of inmates, including the videotaping thereof, shall not be conducted by or in the immediate vicinity of a correction officer or other employee of the opposite sex, except under an emergency or otherwise urgent situation.
On September 11, 2014, Councillor Albano stated: "those serving prison sentences have a right to be treated with dignity, consistent with the Constitution. The policy of conducting strip searches of women in the presence of male correctional officers is also an affront to basic standards of decency."
"With the support of Conservative Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield) to Liberal Ben Swan (D-Springfield) this common sense legislation is moving forward" Councillor Albano stated.
In addition to Senator Humason and Representative Swan, to date, 17 Legislators have also co sponsored HD 1073. They include: Gail Carriddi, Shauna O'Connell, Brian Ashe, Ruth Balser, Marjorie Decker, Michelle DuBois, Chris Walsh, Michael Moore, Denise Provost, Jay Livingstone, Peter Kocot, Angelo Puppolo, Carole Fiola, David Rogers, Cynthia Creem, Keiko Orrall and Kenneth Donnelly.
Women in Leadership
In February, 1996 Mayor Albano appointed then Captain Meara to the position of Police Chief, the first woman Chief in Springfield's history.
In making the announcement, Councillor Albano stated Chief Meara would advise on "what I believe is her greatest strength - crime prevention strategies."
"Chief Meara gained the trust of our citizens which allowed for her officers to conduct meaningful community policing. Her tenure as Chief resulted in a substantial reduction of crime in Springfield" he further stated.
Councillor Albano said he would rely on the Chief's advice in formulating a more broad based strategy in fighting crime.
Paula Meara began her police career in 1974 and rose through the ranksserving as Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain before her appointment as Chief. At the time, she was the only woman in New England to hold the position of police chief in a large city.
Chief Meara holds a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College and serves on various service Boards in western Massachusetts.
Legendary radio personality Paul Harvey closed his broadcast every day by saying "and now you know the rest of the story."
The settlement of a federal lawsuit by women serving sentences at the Western Mass Regional Woman's Correctional Center was announced last week.
The basis of the complaint alleges Sheriff Michael J. Ashe and other officials in charge of policy violated female inmates' rights by allowing male staff to be present and participate during videotaped strip searches.
Attorneys on both sides of the case requested Judge Michael A. Ponsor approve a preliminary settlement in the amount of $675,000. The costs pertain to the class action of 176 women seeking damages along with legal fees.
Legal fees for the Sheriff, at taxpayer expense, as of October 30, 2014 stood at $476,574.57 and counting.
In September, 2014 Judge Posnor found against the Sheriff, stating:
"Unfortunately, in this case a misjudgment occurred resulting in a policy that clearly transgressed the Constitution and injured the plaintiff class. The policy violates the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches."
During the hearing in Federal Court, it was discovered that the policy of male correctional officers videotaping women inmates in Hampden County is not conducted anywhere else in the United States.
On January 7, 2010, and well before the lawsuit was filed by the incarceratedwomen, Boston Attorney Howard Friedman wrote to the lawyers representing the Sheriff with a simple request: stop the practice and the potential for a lawsuit will be withdrawn without any financial consideration for the women, or the attorneys.
The Sheriff refused.
Five years later, this practice by the Sheriff and the resulting lawsuit will cost the taxpayers upwards of $1.5 million.
And now you know, the rest of the story.