In 2012, the ACLU of Michigan was shocked to learn that at the Isabella County Jail in Mount Pleasant, inmates spent many months and sometimes over a year in overcrowded cells where they were virtually on lockdown 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Inmates ate, slept, showered and spent virtually all their time in small cells, some of which are housing twice the number of people they were designed for.

Meanwhile inmates had no opportunity to exercise outside their cell, regardless of how many months they were detained. Some inmates had the chance to leave the cell for classes or other programming, but female inmates were excluded from joining the community service program or the trustee program, which allows inmates to work time off their sentence by performing maintenance, cooking, laundry and other services in the facility. Women were told that this is “a man’s jail” and they would not be allowed to participate in those programs.

In October 2012 the ACLU filed a class action challenging the conditions of confinement and sex discrimination at the jail.

In August 2013 Judge David Lawson approved a settlement that requires the jail to provide exercise space and out-of-cell time to all inmates, and to treat men and women equally with regard to work assignments.

(Dunmire v. Isabella County; ACLU Attorneys Sarah Mehta, Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorney Daniel Manville of the MSU School of Law Civil Rights Clinic.)

Date filed