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$70,000 Settlement to Female Prison Visitor Who Was Strip-Searched

by Christopher Zoukis

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Superintendent of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC) Anthony Mendonsa and SBCC prison guards Jonathan W. Thomas, Carlos M. Goden, Jr., Mark A. Verdini and Maria E. Montanez have agreed to pay $70,000 to settle an improper search claim brought by Zenaida Hernandez, a visitor to SBCC.

Hernandez alleged that she was subjected to a degrading and unconstitutional strip search when she visited prisoner Albert Jackson at the Shirley, Massachusetts prison in September 2011. According to court documents, Hernandez was detained during the visit and forced to take her clothes off, remove her menstrual pad, and "bend over and spread her buttocks so Montanez could inspect her vaginal and anal cavities."

Believing that if she did not allow the search, she would be jailed, Hernandez complied, saying "Oh, God" and trembling during the search. Following the 15 minute long search of her body, she was given toilet paper and told to get dressed.

Hernandez, who speaks little to no English, sued the prison guards for violating her constitutionally protected rights to privacy and freedom from unlawful searches. The court found that Hernandez had stated a valid claim for violation of her rights.

The defendants chose to avoid exposing the atrocious facts of the case to a jury by settling in October 2014. Hernandez agreed to accept $70,000.00 in full satisfaction of her claim. The defendants denied any wrongdoing.

Hernandez was represented by attorneys Howard Friedman, David Milton, and Drew Glassroth of the Boston, Massachusetts-based Law Offices of Howard Friedman PC.

Source:  Hernandez v. Montanez, et al., United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Civil Action No. 12-11062-FDS.

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Related legal case

Hernandez v. Montanez