State News

Costly inmate lawsuits bring new Michigan prisons policy to learn from missteps

October 22, 2021, 9:24 AM

Michigan prison guards and supervisors now must attend formal reviews of whether certain lawsuits against the state could have been avoided.

Heidi Washington has led the Corrections Department since 2015. (Photo: Casey Hull/State of Michigan)

A recent "post-litigation critique" memo from Corrections Director Heidi Washington is quoted by the Detroit Free Press. Sit-downs with the legal department's head are required after suits claiming civil rights violations, retaliation, use of force, failure to protect, unreasonable searches, cruel and unusual punishment, blocked court access, deliberate indifference and mishanded prisoner property.

"The intent of the critique is to identify, assess and correct any noted problem areas," Washington said in the memo, dated Sept. 27 and posted to the department's website in the last week. ...

The critique must include a review of the incident that led to the lawsuit, recommendations on how staff could have handled the situation differently, a determination of whether any policies, operating procedures or training need to be developed or updated, and "if necessary, a plan of action to address any deficiencies that were discovered."

Lansing correspondent Paul Egan puts the policy in financial context:

The Corrections Department was responsible for $125.6 million in judgments and settlements the state paid between 2010 and 2019, according to data compiled by the Senate Fiscal Agency. Figures for the 2020 fiscal year were not available.

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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