A class action lawsuit on behalf of youth sexually assaulted in Michigan prisons, accusing the state of failing to protect them, could go to trial or be settled this year, The Atlantic reports. About 250 inmates who were under 18 between 2010 and 2013 are involved so far. and claim to have been sexually assaulted. The Michigan Department of Corrections has denied the allegations, saying it has been acting in accordance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
Patricia Caruso, who headed the Michigan Department of Corrections from 2003 until 2011 and is now a corrections consultant, says her state enacted cutting-edge policies to curb sexual assault, including a ban on male officers in female housing units. She blames laws from the 1990s that drive youth into adult prisons. The Michigan case’s potential financial cost to the state has begun to circulate among policymakers. At a recent hearing in Texas, a legislative committee considering raising the adult prosecution age from 17 to 18 learned that failures to protect 17-year-olds in adult facilities could, with the help of PREA, lead to costly lawsuits. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who sponsored PREA in 2003, recently told U.S. News and World Report that “damages could reach billions in some states.”