Inmates at Michigan’s only women’s prison suffered “unbearable itching” and permanent scarring because the Michigan Department of Corrections failed for more than a year to diagnose or properly treat a scabies outbreak, prisoner Rebecca Smith said in a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Rochester Hills attorney Daniel Randazzo, Smith’s attorney, said he has letters from more than 200 inmates at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti who suffered from the microscopic mites that can live on skin for months, burrow and lay eggs, causing a red and itchy rash.
“Some of them suffered for six to eight months,” Randazzo told the Free Press. “Some of them more recently contracted it and were treated in a few weeks.”
The Michigan suit is the latest in a series of complaints about the treatment of women in the nation’s federal and state corrections systems.
In September, a report released by the Justice Department cited the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for not adequately addressing the needs of female inmates when it comes to trauma treatment, pregnancy programming, and hygiene. It charged oversight of policies, including those regarding strip searches, are conducted remotely– with no onsite visits to ensure compliance.
Striking a similar note, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released a report last spring calling on the state to treat female inmates with “dignity.”
The Free Press reported extensively on the Michigan outbreak in 2018 and told how the department initially thought the rash was scabies-related but then turned to other possible causes, at one point blaming the prisoners for using improvised soap to clean their undergarments in their cells.