MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has sued Muskegon County on behalf of eight female inmates who say they’ve experienced poor jail conditions.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, comes as the county works to complete a new jail that’s set to open next summer.

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The women, including one currently held in the old jail, say they faced dangerous conditions and were subjected to male guards watching them shower and use the toilet, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

“The county spent $40 million to build a brand-new jail,” said Doug Hughes, a partner of the county’s corporate counsel firm. “What do they want us to do?”

Based on tours of the new jail site, one of the features of the $40 million facility is increased privacy in the shower and toilet areas for inmates. The construction of a new juvenile transition center and finance fees will add another $5 million to the full project.

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“These are all convicted individuals who are providing testimony, whose credibility immediately will be called into question,” Hughes said.

Miriam Aukerman, staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said “cross gender viewing” is among the issues. The lawsuit wants an end to that practice and seeks damages for each of the plaintiffs as well as improved jail conditions, including better plumbing.

“A new jail alone isn’t going to stop male guards from viewing female inmates naked,” she said. “This is really a critical opportunity to make sure things are done right going forward. … We think that this is a very important time to be raising (these issues).”

According to the ACLU, inmates also faced infestations of mold and vermin at the jail. It also seeks more time for exercise outside of cells.

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