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Rampant Sexual Abuse of Juveniles in Michigan Prisons

How many citizens are cognizant of the economic terrorism occurring in Michigan right now with the Obama administration enabling corrupt and opportunistic disaster capitalist, corporate cronies and state and local politicians to shamelessly raid public workers’ pensions?

Naomi Spencer in “Widespread abuse of juvenile inmates in Michigan prisons” turns the spotlight in Michigan on nightmare scenarios of sexual violence being perpetrated against juvenile prison inmates.

Ms. Spencer emphasizes that the US is the ONLY country in the world where courts hand down life sentences to people who are found guilty of crimes before they turn 18, a practice officially banned under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and constituting “cruel and unusual punishment.” But the international code of human rights has been removed from the proverbial table in post-9/11 America clearly.

In the US according to Spencer via “The Sentencing Project” 10,000 youthful offenders have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as children. In Michigan alone this applies to 383 prisoners. The Michigan attorney general, Bill Schuette, is appealing a federal court order to require parole hearings for these prisoners. Of course he is.

Most of us citizens, again especially since 9/11, are constantly conditioned by politicians and corporate media including tv shows to be obsessed with and zero tolerant of all “law & order” violations. We are being conditioned to trust more and more our ever-increasing police state, enabling and ignoring its minimizing or complete denial of individual and human rights in the name of “security.” There is also a clear double standard in excessive harshness against ordinary and poor Americans as opposed to the indulgences of the fraud and white collar criminality of the upper one percent.

Rallying concern for prison and sentencing reform for non-elite citizenry among government officialdom or among even the majority of the public seems daunting but it is imperative. There is a horrifying degree of prison corruption across America in general and, in particular, in Michigan right now.

A lawsuit has been filed on December 9 on behalf of seven juvenile prisoners in Washtenaw County Trial court and with the federal court in Detroit describing horrifying sexual abuse by adult guards and inmates in the Michigan prison system. The suit names Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and numerous prison officials across the state as defendants for failing to separate juvenile inmates from adults. From housing juveniles together with adults and not protecting them from subsequent known harm – “deliberate indifference” to their safety.

Naomi Spencer writes:

The plaintiffs represent more than 500 juvenile prisoners who have been sentenced since 2010 to serve a year or longer in adult prison facilities. Michigan allows children as young as 13 to be incarcerated alongside adults.

The immaturity of juvenile prisoners makes them extremely vulnerable to sexual and physical violence and psychological trauma. They are forced to shower, exercise, and sleep in cells alongside adult prisoners without protection, and they are subjected to body searches and viewing by guards while going to the bathroom. According to federal data, incarcerated youth are eight times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence in adult facilities.

Eight times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence!!!

Spencer explains that the plaintiffs listed in the suit as “John Doe 1-7” accuse the prison staff of “systematically ignoring physical and sexual assault, and punishing youth who reported the abuse by putting them in solitary confinement.”

Two of the plaintiffs report they were raped repeatedly because their cellmates were selling access to them in their cell. This was with the knowledge of MDOC staff members.

Two other plaintiffs were “coerced into sex” by female MDOC officers.

The plaintiffs report being subjected to tasering by guards and deprived of “rehabilitative programming and education.”

Also, the officials named in the case provided no secure grievance channeling for juvenile victims of abuse. Stated in the suit:

“Moreover, Plaintiffs were and are routinely discouraged from using the grievance system as a mechanism for addressing individual assaults and mistreatments, by threats and intimidation by MDOC staff and other prisoners and by virtue of MDOC’s own policies,”

The December 9 motion reveals that defense attorneys who were appointed to represent the youth also attempted to intimidate them into signing confidentiality agreements and prepared affidavits denying sexual abuse. The motion states:

“One youth was told that if he was asked about being raped or harmed, he ‘better not say a word,’... ”

The lawsuit is 32 pages long detailing “hellish conditions” according to Spencer in prisons across Michigan.

John Doe 1 is 17 years old at Handlon Correctional facility. He reports being repeatedly raped and forced to have oral sex with male prisoners in his cell and in the shower. The motion states:

“Over an extended period, corrections officers witnessed men cycling in and out of John Doe 1’s cell, sexually assaulting him. Several of the officers knew that his cellmate was selling access to John Doe 1, “The sexual abuse, forced sex, and trafficking abuse of John Doe 1 was open and obvious to MDOC staff and his attempts to get help were rejected.”

He was eventually placed in solitary confinement, where he remains, receiving no educational services or necessary medical or mental health care.

Spencer writes:

John Doe 2, a 16-year-old, was “brutally beaten and raped by his adult cellmate” shortly after his arrival at the Thumb Correctional Facility in 2012. Medical staff noted his rectal bleeding, but MDOC officials returned the boy to the same cell with his assailant, where the abuse continued. “An MDOC staff member at TCF facilitated the abuse and assault of John Doe 2 by opening John Doe 2’s cell to allow an adult prisoner in the cell to assault him.”

When he reported the abuse, staff issued him a “misconduct ticket” and put him in solitary confinement. After he was released, he was assaulted with a knife, “resulting in a scar across the face and marking him as a victim and as an ongoing target for other prisoners.” The teen was denied education and health care, and suffers severe emotional distress.

The stories of the five other plaintiffs are similar, suggesting that such abuse is commonplace throughout the Michigan prison system.

How long will a “reactionary” pro-police state government and too many seemingly ethically comatose citizens allow for the ever-increasing trashing of basic human and civil rights especially for Americans most desperately dependent on federal and state attention?

The rights and protections of America’s youth are and have been expendable clearly to our present and recent past administrations. Whether to usury in their trying to get educations, to supplying cannon fodder for corporate wars, or for out and out physical and psychological torture of an insanely out of control and inhumane prison system. Michigan’s is assuredly not unique in nature.

It is past time to stop the horrors.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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