Next week, the Michigan Court of Appeals will be hearing a case to determine whether prisoners are protected under Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
The Michigan Constitution states, “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law,” but the Legislature decided that doesn’t apply to prisoners.
The case is a class action suit representing male juveniles who allege they were raped and otherwise sexually assaulted by older prisoners and that guards knew of the assaults. It also alleges that some guards groped the teenage prisoners.
The case was filed in 2013, and the Attorney General’s office has filed dozens of appeals seeking stays, which has dragged the case out.
Dan Korobkin, the Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, joined us to talk about the case.
On why prisoners have been excluded from state civil rights protections
In the late 1990s, acting on a fear of so-called “super-predators,” the Michigan state legislature “decided to carve out an entire group of people from our state’s civil rights laws,” said Korobkin. Prisoners are “the most vulnerable, and also the group with the least, you know, number of political connections with powerful people,” he added.
On the state’s response to the rape allegations
"The Attorney General’s office is so frightened of this case that they’ve filed over a dozen appeals at every juncture trying to get it thrown out,” said Korobkin. “The real question is why aren’t they investigating these very serious allegations of really what amount to widespread human rights abuses in our prisons? And why don’t they want to give vulnerable youth their day in court to either prove their case or not prove their case?”
We reached out to Attorney General Schuette's office for comment, but the office declined, citing pending litigation.
Listen above for the full conversation.