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Politics & Government

Michigan agrees to pay $80 million to settle prison sex abuse lawsuits

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Inmates in Michigan's county jails could be housed in smaller cells under a bill passed by the Michigan house this week.

The state of Michigan has reached an $80 million dollar settlement with former juvenile inmates who say they were sexually abused in the prison system.

It will be up to attorneys to figure out how to divide the money between roughly 1,300 plaintiffs who sued the state.

Heidi Washington is the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. She says before the lawsuit, judges decided whether juveniles convicted of serious crimes would go to prison.

“And when they were sent to prison, the department would place them as they would other prisoners – meaning that younger prisoners could be housed in the same housing unit with older prisoners. That is no longer the case,” she says.

Washington says there are currently 29 juveniles being held in a unit at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, which also houses adults.

She says the department has already taken the step of separating offenders younger than 18 from adults.

“And so what we’re saying is we believe that youthful offenders should be in the youthful system until they become adults, and then they can come to the adult system,” says Washington.

Washington also says the Legislature should also adopt a law that forbids mixing juvenile and adult offenders in the same space.

The agreement must still be approved by state and federal judges. There will be a hearing on the settlement April 9th in Washtenaw County.

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