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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Prisoners Will be Allowed to Report Abuse Under ACLU Settlement

Jail cell photo
Pixabay | CC BY 3.0

It all started in 2014, when Sharee Miller, a prisoner at Huron Valley Women’s prison, began her shift as a prisoner observation aide. Her job was to keep watch on prisoners who were at risk of self harming behaviors. During her shift, Miller observed a fellow inmate stripped naked and painfully hogtied for hours. After witnessing her fellow inmate forced to stay in that position for almost five hours without food or a bathroom break, Miller made a complaint to prison officials.

“And nobody answered in the administration when I wrote them, nobody answered my kype, so I ended up contacting outside facility.”

That’s when Humanity for Prisoner and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan got involved.  Here is Dan Corobkin from the ACLU. 

“So she stared advocating outside the facility by writing letters to different organizations complaining about what she was witnessing and she was fired from her job by the department of corrections for speaking out.”

Corrections officials argued that Miller violated confidentiality rules by reporting the abuse, so the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Miller in 2015. After a federal judge rejected the state’s effort to have the lawsuit dismissed, a settlement was reached just days before a trial was scheduled to begin. 

“The department of corrections changed its policy to recognize that anyone who witnesses abuse and neglect has the right to report the misconduct without the threat of retaliation.”

According to the settlement records, Miller will be reinstated as a prisoner observation, she will be payed compensation and her record will be cleared of any wrongdoing. 

“It meant a lot to me just to fight because its not right to be put in prison and not have a way to tell people what’s going on in here.”

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News. 

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