Attorney sues over teens held in Michigan's adult prisons

Oct. 16, 2013 at 2:02 PM
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LANSING, Mich., Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A Michigan attorney said she's suing the state corrections department for housing minors in adult prisons, resulting in sexual assaults and harassment.

Deborah LaBelle, who in 2009 won a $100 million settlement on behalf of 500 female prisoners in Michigan who claimed they were sexually abused by corrections officers, said housing prisoners younger than 18 in general adult prison populations amounts to a willful disregard for their safety.

The Detroit Free Press said Wednesday LaBelle's suit has been filed on behalf of seven John Does, each of whom reported having been raped, assaulted and subjected to emotional abuse in a Michigan prison by an adult inmate when they were 17 or younger.

Teens as young as 14 are sometimes housed in adult prisons, LaBelle said.

"Defendants' policy and practice of housing youthful and adult prisoners together without taking adequate steps to protect youth from a known harm constitutes deliberate indifference to their safety," the suit alleges.

LaBelle has sought to pursue the case as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the "at least 500 children" being housed in state prisons.

A Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman couldn't be reached to comment.

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