Eleven unnamed plaintiffs say Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the Department of Corrections and 15 wardens from facilities around the state violated their civil rights, essentially failing to protect an at-risk segment of the prison population and demonstrating “deliberate indifference to their safety,” says the Detroit News. Another 200-plus inmates have responded to a notice of a class-action lawsuit, according to the plaintiffs’ legal team of Deborah LaBelle and Michael Pitt. The suits, filed in 2013, are getting renewed attention not only for the newly detailed rape allegations from inmates, but also for the state’s defense tactics and its historically get-tough approach toward juvenile offenders.
“John Doe 11,” 17, said at least one guard was stationed outside Kinross Correctional Facility’s shower area, no more than 20 feet away. He said no one came to help as he screamed while being raped. “I pretty much just sat in the shower, crying. I never expected it to happen to me,” Doe said. Lawsuits describe alleged incidents in which teens were forced into sex acts by adult prisoners through physical violence or the threat of it. In some cases, corrections facility employees are accused of sexual harassment, allowing assaults to happen or ignoring requests for help from teen inmates. “We are confident the assertions made in the lawsuit are false and we are vigorously defending the department,” said Chris Gautz, public information officer for the Department of Corrections. In 2012, Michigan had the sixth highest number of inmates aged 18 or younger being housed in adult prisons.