In 2014 the ACLU of Michigan began to receive extremely disturbing reports of mentally ill inmates being mistreated at Huron Valley Correctional Facility, the only women’s prison in Michigan. 

According to reports from multiple individuals who witnessed these events first-hand, mentally ill prisoners were being placed in solitary confinement and denied water and food, “hog tied” naked for many hours, left to stand, sit or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered. 

Other reports indicated that women with serious medical and mental health conditions were not receiving proper treatment and in some cases were being punished for seeking help.  Additionally, when healthy inmates who witnessed these events contacted individuals outside the facility to report what was happening, they were punished for doing so. 

In July 2014 the ACLU of Michigan led a coalition in writing a strongly worded letter to the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to raise these concerns, and we also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. 

After meeting with state officials and touring the facility we wrote a second letter to MDOC in November 2014 suggesting a specific series reforms based on successful policies that had been implemented in other states.  Unfortunately, MDOC did not respond to our letter with a willingness to make serious changes needed to protect prisoners from unconstitutional abuse and mistreatment. 

However, in March 2016 we obtained public records revealing that our advocacy had resulted in the expansion of a U.S Department of Justice investigation into the facility, yielding findings from federal experts highly critical of Huron Valley’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners.  The Department of Justice continued its oversight over the facility until reforms were made. 

(ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin and Legal Fellow Sofia Nelson; U-M Law School Professors Margo Schlanger, Kimberly Thomas and Paul Reingold.) 

To view the full 2014-2015 Legal Docket, click here.