While there are a handful of people who labor under the delusion that prison is a state funded vacation where criminals are provided three meals a day, a bed, and access to a gym, most people would agree that prison is no picnic. But while no one expects to have a good time there, at the very least they should be free from exploitation and abuse. However, Michigan’s prison system is currently facing a horrendous accusation in the form of a class-action lawsuit which alleges that they failed in even this most basic of rights.
According to the lawsuit, male inmates under the age of 18 were subjected to repeated sexual assaults, both at the hands of older inmates and certain guards. The underaged inmates, who were housed with adults at the time of the assaults, are claiming that some of the assaults were “open and obvious” but that they were not protected or defended by the prison staff.
The Corrections Department has denied the allegations, saying that they should not be liable for injuries that inmates sustain while housed in state-run facilities. In the state’s defense, the court has also been told that, essentially, prison is not a fun place to be and that there are inherent risks in being there. For those who are harmed along the way, it should be expected. The state should not be held accountable for that harm.
According to statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 2% of both male and female minors in prison have been victims of sexual misconduct by other, older inmates in recent years, but that the number of assaults conducted by prison staff was higher.
But this is only the beginning. Over 200 possible victims have come forward so far, and have met with the attorneys who are handling the lawsuit. But it may be a long while before any of them see any changes, or any justice. There are still a number of appeals still pending on the judge’s rulings, and talks have been scheduled for later in the year to address the possible issue of settlement.
It remains to be seen how this will pan out, and what changes will take place within the prison system in the aftermath of this lawsuit, to better protect those who are incarcerated by the state. The best thing, of course, is to never be in prison in the first place. If you are charged with a crime, get a strong defense attorney by your side who will work to protect your rights.