Fight Emerging Over Settlement for Abused Inmates

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- A fight is emerging over whether female prisoners who won a lawsuit after being sexually victimized in Michigan's corrections system should have to pay some of the money to the victims of their own crimes.

A 2009 settlement came called for $100 million to be paid to up to 900 female inmates who underwent sexual assaults, groping or harassment from prison guards over 16 years.

Some of those women also face restitution orders for their crimes. The Michigan attorney general's office has been trying to learn what restitution orders are in effect for 15 women convicted of felonies in Oakland County and believed to have been part of the settlement.
Of the 15, seven have been released from prison and discharged from parole, four remain in prison and four are on parole. Together, they owe $172,814 in restitution.

Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Timothy Connors has blocked disclosures of the women's identities and the amount they each received at the request of a lawyer for the women.

"As counsel for the girls and women, who were themselves victims of the crimes of rape and sexual assaults, it is our duty to protect their privacy rights so they are not re-victimized by individuals or agencies seeking to take advantage of them," Ann Arbor lawyer Deborah LaBelle told the Detroit Free Press in a statement.

A lawyer for Oakland County says the abused women aren't the only victims.

"They are in prison because they victimized someone else," said corporation counsel Judith Cunningham. "We're trying to make the original victim whole."

An account clerk stole about $45,000 from FiberClass Siding and Gutters in Wixom, starting in 2003. She eventually was convicted and sent to prison, then freed in 2007 with an order to repay the money. So far, she's paid nothing.

"Not having that money is an even bigger problem today with sales the way they are," said the company's financial controller, Tina Klinebriel. "We have to lay people off in the winter months now."

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