‘A massive lawsuit representing over 1,000 children who were held and sexually abused in the Michigan corrections system was recently settled as state officials agreed to pay $80 million to the victims. The lawsuit began in 2013 and has been an uphill battle for the plaintiffs as the state fought them every step of the way.
The massive payout comes after hundreds of children came forward with claims that they were sexually assaulted and harassed by corrections officers as well as incarcerated adults while in the state’s care in detention centers across the state.
Despite the size of the settlement, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) director and a spokesperson for the current attorney general cited the costs of litigation as their reason for settling — not guilt.
“We’ve got to look at the length of time that we’ve been dealing with this and the amount of resources that frankly will be spent continuing to draw this out,” Heidi Washington, the MDOC director, said during the call. Through a statement read by her spokesperson, Attorney General Dana Nessel said that although her office had “vigorously defended against this lawsuit and has exhausted every single legal argument over the years, in the end, it was clear that continuing to engage in protracted litigation was not in the best interest of the people of this state.”
In response to the state’s inability to believe the hundreds of alleged victims, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, Deborah LaBelle said the “state took dozens of depositions of youth who under oath told consistent and compelling reports of sexual assaults in addition to many many more, who asked for help they never received and most of whose reports of rape were never even investigated. The only way to assert the [defendants] could not corroborate is to take the unsupported position that scores of young people were lying about the sexual assaults that happened to them in Michigan’s prisons when they were placed, without supervision, in cells and units with adults when they were 15, 16, and 17 years old. To simply deny the credible and consistent reports of these young sexual abuse survivors is to retraumatize them.”