Sharee Miller, a prisoner at Huron Valley Women’s Prison, was fired from her job as a prisoner observation aide (POA) at the prison for seeking help for mentally ill women prisoners who were being abused and neglected by the guards. 

Ms. Miller’s job at the prison was to keep watch over prisoners who were at risk of suicide or self-harm.  On multiple occasions, she saw guards abuse mentally ill women by leaving them hogtied and naked for hours, depriving them of water, and refusing to advise medical authorities even when a prisoner was foaming at the mouth.  Ms. Miller’s internal complaints within the prison were ignored, so she ultimately alerted outside organizations such as the Department of Justice and advocacy groups.  When she did so, she was punished for violating “confidentiality” rules. 

In 2015, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit to prevent the prison from punishing prisoners who report abuse and neglect.  In March 2019, Judge Sean Cox denied the state’s motion for summary judgment and scheduled the case for trial.

In July 2019, the federal lawsuit settled after the Michigan Department of Corrections agreed to a major policy change that will allow prisoners to report any abuse they witness of fellow inmates. Under the settlement approved by a federal judge, POAs will be allowed to report mistreatment to a government oversight agency or state-designated protection and advocacy organization whose mission includes the protection of prisoners' civil rights. Miller will be reinstated to her position as a POA, compensated for her lost wages, and have her record cleared of having been terminated for violating prison rules.

(Miller v. Stewart; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg; Cooperating Attorneys Daniel Quick, Jerome Crawford, Chelsea Smialek, Kathleen Cieslik, Emily Turbiak, and Alma Sobo of Dickinson Wright.)

Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.

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