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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

Michigan Agrees To Pay $80 Million Settle Prison Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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The state of Michigan has agreed to pay a total of $80 million to former juvenile inmates who say they were victims of sexual abuse in prison.

The deal also includes making changes to how the state houses juveniles in prison.
The agreement would cover 1,300 former juvenile inmates. It will be up to attorneys to figure out how to divide the money between the victims. The deal also calls for juveniles to be housed in separate facilities than adult felons.

Michigan Corrections Director Heidi Washington said 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 said. 

Washington said the department has moved the remaining 29 juveniles in the state system to a separate unit at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. Washington said it’s also time to change sentencing laws. 

“We call on the Legislature to re-visit this issue and end the practice of sending youthful offenders to adult prisons,” she said. 

The next step is for the settlement to be approved by state and federal judges. There will be a hearing on the settlement April 9th in Washtenaw County.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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