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Lansing, Michigan

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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Felons Guarding Felons? Cruel And Unusual

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More than 500 women were sexually assaulted by prison guards in the Michigan State prison system during the 1990’s. Prison officials either ignored or dismissed warnings from human rights groups that told them that female inmates were falling victim to male guards.

The Michigan Department of Corrections has faced a class-action lawsuit that produced verdicts of over $50 million for the first 18 rape victims alone, with many more left to testify. The cost of such horrifying behavior by correctional officers could cost the tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Many women have said that rape is just one of many acts of sexual assault by correctional officers, including routine molestation under the guise of security pat-downs. When the guard’s actions went unpunished, the abuses became overt and brazen. Some guards would even fondle women in front of other inmates and guards.

It is illegal for guards to have non-consensual and consensual sexual contact with inmates. Some guards offered "protection" from other guards to coerce the inmates into submission. Female inmates had kept quiet for years because they did not think they would be taken seriously since they were convicts.

The State of Michigan has offered a simple defense to the claims of these women: prisoners lie; and if something did happen, why didn’t the women report it. These are the same kinds of defenses that were acceptable in the days of common-law rape, where it was not rape unless the women resisted until death. These women were at the mercy of these guards everyday while they were incarcerated.

At no point during their sentencing did the judge say that they would be locked up for more than a year and subject to repeated sexual violations by prison guards based upon their prior criminal convictions. The Attorney General of Michigan, Mike Cox, has recently decided to pursue criminal charges against the prison guards. but only after significant pressure from the media surrounding the trial.

The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. No inmate should have to endue sexual slavery and gang rape in addition to their prison sentence. The gross actions by these prison guards are a clear violation of the inmate’s 8th Amendment rights, and the state should take every reasonable measure to prevent these kinds of abuses.