Rally outside women’s prison in Michigan to shine light on alleged ‘rape punishment’ of inmates

click to enlarge Huron Valley Correctional Facility is the only prison for women in Michigan. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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Huron Valley Correctional Facility is the only prison for women in Michigan.

Protesters plan to converge outside of Michigan’s only prison for women on Sunday following disturbing allegations of rape, retaliation, and neglect.

Two former employees of the Michigan Department of Corrections say they’ve witnessed a culture of "rape punishment" at Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township in Washtenaw County, about 40 miles west of Detroit. They also said drugs were being distributed to inmates who are participating in a program to combat opioid additions. In addition, they said, inmates are fearful of retaliation and are denied medical attention if they are seriously ill.

"The prison violates the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which is supposed to combat this behavior, not compel sexual misconduct within our institutions," civil rights attorney Dionne Webster-Cox, of Webster Law Office, said in a statement. "We maintain there should be zero tolerance for sexual violence, staff sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility for all offenders under its jurisdiction. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Webster-Cox plans to speak at the rally at noon Sunday outside the prison at 3201 Bemis Road.

According to Webster Cox, two corrections employees were fired in retaliation for trying to alert authorities to what was happening at the prison.

The prison has a history of neglect and abuse. In 2009, the state paid $100 million to settle lawsuits that claimed male corrections officers had sexually abused and harassed female prisoners.

The alleged abuse continued after the case was settled. Between July 2018 and June 2019, 146 women said they were sexually harassed and 12 claimed they were sexually assaulted, according to the MDOC.

In September 2019, the prison was closed to visitors because of a scabies outbreak. About 2,000 women were isolated after women began complaining of rashes.

A class-action lawsuit filed in September 2019 alleged a host of problems, including overcrowding, poor ventilation, and leaky roofs that contributed to chronic mold that was making inmates sick.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, 1,046 inmates have tested positive, and four have died, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. With 327 current COVID-19 infections, Huron Valley Correctional Facility has more active cases than any other prison in Michigan.

Metro Times
featured several former inmates of the prison in a cover story in May 2021. One of those inmates, Machelle Pearson, was raped by a guard and impregnated.

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