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Feds sue Michigan Department of Corrections over treatment of female guards

Prison fence barbed wire
Kevin Rosseel
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation

The Michigan Department of Corrections faces a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that alleges sex discrimination against female guards at the state’s only prison for women.

The lawsuit is based on 28 complaints filed by female officers who work, or once worked, at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti. The lawsuit says the corrections department is stretching its female workforce too thin by assigning women to jobs that can be handled by male guards because they don’t involve direct or private contact with inmates.

The complaint says the result is female guards being forced to work many hours of unnecessary overtime. It also says female corrections officers can’t get transfers that are approved for male guards with less seniority.

“We are not challenging positions where it makes sense to assign only female officers, but only those positions that could reasonably be filled by men or women,” said Detroit U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade in a press release.  “By limiting positions that are not justifiably related to inmate privacy to women officers, MDOC created staffing limitations that harm female employees by forcing them to work overtime and preventing them from transferring to other facilities that are closer to their homes, offer more favorable conditions or provide promotional opportunities.”

The department has been trying to recruit more female correction after it was sued by female inmates over their treatment by male guards. A department spokesman said there would be no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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