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Michigan’s women prison fails to comply with staff body searches, timely health care for inmates

An investigation into the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility found that there is still work to do in order to bring the facility up to compliance standards, according to a recent Office of Auditor General report.

OAG staff presented the new findings from a follow-up investigation into July 2017 and June 2020 audits of the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility during a Tuesday, Nov. 29, Senate Oversight Committee meeting.

The report contained performance results of four different circumstances within the investigation, two of which the prison was found to be out of compliance with the corresponding recommendations previously given by the Auditor General.

The first instance in which the prison failed to comply surrounds the facility’s ability to conduct search and pat-down protocols for all facility employees.

While the prison was required to document and subsequently develop new security monitoring protocols, the Auditor General found Huron Valley did not conduct 30% of any form of employee body search for 30% of employees during the specified time period, nor did it conduct clothed body searches of 51% of employees during the same time period.

During the hearing, committee chair Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, questioned the possibility of a conspiracy into how employees entering the facility correlates with the amount of contraband found.

“We know that contraband gets into these facilities, we know that the best source is through those coming through the gates,” he said.

The prison’s second failure to comply stems from its health care services, where it was found that Huron Valley had not conducted 28% of required chronic care condition healthcare assessments in a timely manner. According to the report, healthcare assessments ranged from one day to 198 days late.

Following the initial recommendations in June 2020, the MDOC implemented an integrated information system to manage all aspects of a prisoner’s incarceration, including electronic medical records.

The Auditor General’s office reviewed the medical records for 20 prisoners – with conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension and seizures – who were required to have a total of 35 chronic care condition healthcare assessments from Jan. 2021 through May 2022.

Of those assessments, the investigation found that the prison’s healthcare services did not complete 14% in a timely manner, ranging from 36 days to 197 days late. It also found that half of those prisoners were seen by a medical provider for an unrelated issue three times between their chronic care assessments, but records didn’t include any documentation supporting an assessment of the chronic condition at those appointments.

Statements from MDOC within the report indicate the department agrees with the findings from the follow-up investigation and will make strides to become compliant with the new recommendations, such as additional training for staff and updating policies.

In the case of the other two recommendations, the prison was found to have proper control over tools within the facility, and conducted all required cell searches or prisoner shakedowns, although concerns were raised regarding the thoroughness of the searches.

As of June 2022, the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility had 476 employees and housed approximately 1,600 prisoners. It’s Michigan’s only all-female prison.

Kyle Kaminski, a legislative liaison with the Michigan Department of Corrections, noted during Tuesday’s Oversight committee meeting that these findings are an improvement from previous years, especially given the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While there were some conditions that persisted and that is a concern and something that we’re going to work to address, in almost every area that was measured by these audits or reviewed by these audits, we saw improvement as compared to the earlier audits,” Kaminski said.

Following questioning by committee members, it appears answers are still needed on what can be done to provide the corrections department with the necessary resources to prevent contraband from entering the facility.

Kaminski said the next step for the correction’s department will be a manual evaluation of the data to see if any patterns stick out that may help them address those concerns.

“It’s different than having the data and really having systems that help you analyze it,” he said. “I think what we want to continue to look at as a department is where can we make those strategic investments in technology so that we feel like we’re getting more out of the system than we’re putting in.”

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