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$47,500 Settlement in Pennsylvania Restraint Suit

In May, 1999, the Northampton County Prison (NCP) paid Maria Merced $47,500 to settle a "hogtying" lawsuit she had filed. In August, 1996, while awaiting trial in the NCP, Merced argued with a guard and eventually spat on him. A number of guards then rushed into her cell, handcuffed her hands behind her back, placed shackles around her ankles and then chained the handcuffs to the shackles and left her like that for about eight hours.

On October 7, 1996, Merced was hogtied in this manner for four hours. On October 9, 1996, she was hogtied for 91/2 hours, this time while she was naked. She was also denied food during this period. A community investigation was conducted of the incidents and eventually one of the guards involved in the incidents was fired and several others were suspended. Merced suffered lower back and neck strain, contusions on her thighs and lacerations and swelling on her wrists as a result of the hogtyings.

Merced filed suit claiming the hogtyings violated her Eighth amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. The Northampton County Prison settled the lawsuit by paying Merced $47,500 in damages and changing its policies to ensure restraints are used only for medical and mental health purposes and not for disciplinary reasons. Merced was represented by the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. See: Merced v. Northampton County Correctional Facility, USDC ED PA, Case No. 98-4215.

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Related legal case

Merced v. Northampton County Corr. Facility