Mich. Prison System Held in Contempt of Court

A federal judge in Michigan has found the state's the DOC in contempt of court. He ordered DOC to provide more prison doctors and nurses within four months. He's threatened the DOC with a $2 million fine.

He said a prisoner deserves to serve his sentence, not face delays in treatment.

"What he does not deserve is a de facto and unauthorized death penalty at the hands of a callous and dysfunctional health care system that regularly fails to treat life-threatening illness," Enslen wrote.

This isn't the Judge's first ruling taking the DOC to task.

Last month, Enslen issued a separate decision criticizing the state's care of mentally ill inmates and ordering the state to stop using non-medical, punitive restraints on prisoners.

The judge's decision came after a 21-year-old mentally ill inmate died in August after spending four days naked inside a hot, isolated cell at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson. An autopsy determined the inmate, Timothy Joe Souders, died accidentally of hyperthermia and dehydration.

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  • Display: Sort:
    here's the problem I see (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 10:07:26 AM EST
    how will the Judge enforce the contempt citation?

    taking money from the system - deprives the system of resources it needs.

    locking up the warden - he'll/she'll get cushy treatment from subordinates, and it won't change the system anyway

    taking over the system - the screwups in charge will still get paid and pensioned, and it will cost more to operate, what with two levels of operators

    letting prisoners go - that'll go over like the proverbial lead balloon now, and make sure there will be worse in the future.

    And, the operators of the system know all this too (I mean, if I can figure it out....).

    I think the only rational way to reduce the problem, is to reduce the size of the prison population.  And, the easiest and quickest way to do that is to stop locking people up for minor drug violations.

    Besides the fine, the judge can... (none / 0) (#4)
    by Bill Arnett on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 03:34:54 PM EST
    ...start to hold people in contempt and force them to come before him and cite good cause why they should NOT be held in contempt.

    When individual police/sheriff or other DoC people have to start hiring attorneys to defend them against a contempt citation and the managerial people start going to jail for contempt, then things will start happening and change will be effected.

    You don't want to mess around with a contempt charge because a judge's order to confine you for contempt is generally NOT appealable, meaning you either comply with orders or sit in jail/


    Makes sense (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 10:21:07 AM EST
    I think the only rational way to reduce the problem, is to reduce the size of the prison population.  And, the easiest and quickest way to do that is to stop locking people up for minor drug violations.

    Yes it makes sense for the taxpayer, but for those on the receiving end there is little incentive. Fine them 2mil? No problem, the taxpayers will foot the bill.

    Change the laws? Fat chance....too many are benefiting from the system as it stand. For congress it is a hot potato and the public....well democracy has its problems.

    Still hopeful though.

    the problem is (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 11:13:33 AM EST
    that my proposal makes too much sense.  (I often recognize, in dealing with organizations, that the least likely way to improve things is also the most sensible.)

    That, and there are just too many cops and worker-bees-in-the-system whose livelihoods and public employee pensions depend on a steady flow of drug arrests.


    Federal judges have burned their fingers (none / 0) (#5)
    by JSN on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 03:40:46 PM EST
    when they took over a state prisons in the past. But fines of that magnitude are large enough to get the attention of the governor, legislators and interested members of the public. What we are dealing with is criminal indifference which has tarred all of residents of Michigan. I hope some of them are embarrassed enough to demand action.