At the Muskegon County Jail, male guards have routinely viewed naked or partially naked female inmates while they are showering, dressing, or using the toilet; the women have been denied feminine hygiene products, so that they bleed into their clothes; and female prisoners have rarely if ever been allowed any exercise outside of their cells. 

After attempting for almost two years to work with Muskegon County to resolve these systemic problems, in 2014, the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal class action lawsuit to bring the jail into compliance with constitutional standards.  Judge Janet Neff denied the jail’s motion to dismiss the women’s cross-gender viewing and exercise claims; she ruled against the women on the feminine hygiene claim, but that issue was appealed. 

In July 2017, we reached a settlement involving for damages, attorneys’ fees, and policy reforms.  Jail guards must now announce themselves before entering housing units of the opposite sex, and the entry of male staff and trustees into female housing units will be limited (such as not during shower times); feminine hygiene products will regularly be distributed at the same time as medication; women will be able to request gym access; and cell lock-downs will be limited to 15 hours. 

(Semelbauer v. Muskegon County; ACLU Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg, and Legal Fellows Marc Allen, Juan Caballero and Sofia Nelson; Cooperating Attorneys Stephen Drew, Adam Sturdivant and Robika Garner of Drew, Cooper & Anding, and Kevin Carlson.)

Read the Women's stories in their own words, learn about the case, and view court filings

Article, Dec. 4, 2014: ACLU of Michigan sues Muskegon County over unconstitutional policies, hazardous conditions at jail

Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.