ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) – A lawyer has sued Michigan on behalf of seven boys who say they were sexually and physically abused while in Michigan’s prison system.
Ann Arbor attorney Deborah LaBelle won a 2009 settlement for hundreds of female Michigan prisoners who said corrections officers sexually abused them.
On Tuesday, she sued in Detroit federal court for seven male prisoners who report other inmates abused them when they were under 18. LaBelle requests class action status for the case on behalf of “at least 500 children” ages 14 and 17 who’ve been housed in Michigan prisons at least a year in the last three years.
The lawsuit claims the state failed to separate the boys from adult prisoners and take adequate precautions to protect them from assault and abuse.
Click here to read the lawsuit (.pdf format)
According to the lawsuit, one of the boys’ attempts to get help were repeatedly rejected, even though corrections officers allegedly knew that the boy’s adult cellmate was selling access to him. The lawsuit says adult prisoners exercised control over the young prisoner by, among other things, forcing him to have sex with other adult prisoners.
The suit alleges that not all of the abuse was at the hands of other prisoners, either. According to the lawsuit, female staff members sexually abused and harassed the young prisoners during body searches and while they were showering.
The Michigan Department of Corrections tells the Detroit Free Press that it hasn’t house 17-year-olds in the general prison population since Aug. 20.
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