The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Protest of Prison Conditions

Jan 17, 2022

Protestors plan to gather on Sunday, January 16 outside the state of Michigan’s only prison for women. The prison, 40 miles west of Detroit, is overcrowded, understaffed, and currently has the worst COVID-19 outbreak among the state’s 28 prisons.

Two former State of Michigan employees of the Huron Valley Correctional facility are joining prisoner advocates to draw attention to horrendous conditions at the prison. The former employees describe a culture of retaliation where inmates are denied medical attention if they are seriously ill to punish them for speaking out about conditions. The two believe they were fired in retaliation for alerting authorities in an attempt to get help for prisoners.

The two former workers add their voice to an ongoing fight organized by current and former prisoners and supporters to improve conditions. Back in 2009, the Michigan Department of Corrections paid out 100 million dollars to settle a class action lawsuit about sexual assault and harassment at the Huron Valley prison. Very little has changed. Since July 2018, 146 more women have documented cases of sexual harassment and 12 have documented sexual assault, according to official state records.

The fight has continued. In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, a new class action lawsuit was filed by Huron Valley prisoners over poor ventilation, overcrowding, chronic mold and leaky roofs. In December 2021 and January 2022, two state senators called for public hearings about short-staffing. There are allegations of state employees mandated to work 24-hour shifts. Overall, staffing is said to be so sparse, conditions are unsafe for prisoners and staff.

State workers, prisoners and their supporters are absolutely right to keep up the pressure and seek to broaden the fight to reverse deteriorating prison conditions.