A lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections alleging the system allowed more than 1,300 youths under 18 to be sexually abused has reached an $80 million settlement.
According to the Detroit Free Press, a 2013 class-action suit alleged that the inmates who were housed with adults were abused by older prisoners and staff members. The payments will be made over a three-year period.
Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel said in a statement,“I believe prisoners are entitled to be treated with respect and basic human dignity. I know MDOC has made significant strides under the leadership of [MDOC Director Heidi] Washington and that the past seven years of litigation do not reflect the values of her administration or the current reality of life inside Michigan’s prison system.”
Washington took charge of the department in 2015 and by 2016 began separating adults from prisoners younger than 18.
Nessel continued, “My hope is that this settlement allows us to move forward and brings closure for the inmates who have spent years of their lives litigating this matter. There are far better ways for the State to use its resources than to continue to engage in lengthy litigation.”
Deborah LaBelle, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Free Press the money from the settlement will help her clients “to get some help and to start healing.” She does wish her clients would receive the money sooner than later.
The settlement will be given to those who were under 18 while held in Michigan prisons between Oct. 15, 2010, and Feb. 24, 2020. It calls for an initial payment of $25 million on court approval, another $15 million in 2020, $25 million in 2021, and $15 million in 2022, according to the Free Press.
The Michigan Department of Corrections houses 38,000 prisoners, approximately 29,000 are juvenile offenders. Blacks represent a disproportionate number of people incarcerated in the state. African Americans represent about 15 percent of Michigan’s population, but 37 percent of its jail population and 53 percent of its prison population, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.