DETROIT – In a victory for women prisoners, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today that a tentative settlement agreement was reached in a class-action lawsuit to remedy Livingston County’s refusal to allow women in the jail to use the work release program and mistreatment of women prisoners. Though the final agreement is awaiting the judge’s signature, news of the settlement was disclosed by the Livingston County Undersheriff yesterday.

“This settlement will be a real victory for women inmates who were denied access to the jail’s work release program and who were victims of extreme privacy violations by male guards,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director.

Michael Pitt, one of the ACLU cooperating attorneys involved in the case, added, “This settlement not only benefits the 131 women who are currently part of this class-action lawsuit, but will have enormous impact on any women who are in the Livingston County Jail in the future.”

The settlement includes:

  •  $850,000 settlement for privacy violations and denial of access to the work release program
  • The building of a six-bed dormitory-style unit to accommodate work release inmates, similar to the existing unit for men, for women charged with lesser offenses;
  • Shower curtains to ensure privacy in the shower area;
  • A privacy wall surrounding the toilet area in the holding area;
  • Prohibition on cross-gender pat-downs when a same gender corrections officer is on shift;
  • Pads or mattresses consistent with health and safety concerns for inmates housed overnight in the holding area;
  • Trustee assignments for qualified female inmates, similar to those assignments given to male inmates;
  • Sensitivity training for new personnel pursuant to the standards of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

 The case, Cox v. Horman, was filed in 2000 only after significant efforts were made to get jail authorities to improve treatment without a lawsuit. 

 Deborah LaBelle, a nationally known expert on women in prison was a cooperating attorney in addition to Michael and Peggy Pitt of Pitt, Dowty, McGehee, Mirer and Palmer.