Inmates from Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility have reached out to the public through staff members and prison reform activists to expose the abuse and inhumane conditions they have been suffering. The facility is heavily populated with Black women. Fox 2 Detroit reported two staff members were fired from the prison after attempting to report cases of sexual abuse they’ve witnessed.
Their attorney Dion Webster-Cox told Fox their offices were ravaged and they were told they were let go following their efforts to report the abuse. “Ethically, morally, and legally, I am responsible. I cannot turn my head when it comes to injustices that are being done. If I see someone, something, someone that is helpless, that is being picked on, berated - if I turn my head, I am no better than the person who is doing the abusing,” said one former employee via Fox.
A number of Black inmates shared their testimonies through Prison Radio expanding on the issues they face including sexual abuse, lack of medical attention and unsanitary living conditions.
Krystal Clark, who suffers from asthma and a heart condition, told Prison Radio she was denied thyroid surgery. Clark also said her cell is infected with black mold which has caused her to have trouble breathing and resulted in a bacterial infection to her lungs.
From Clark via Prison Radio:
No one even cares, just take this medication, please take this, no I need to go to the hospital and have doctors help me in here. We can’t talk about some things because they don’t listen, they don’t hear us, they don’t want to hear us. They’re supposed to be doctors and nurses, they’re supposed to be here to help us. They don’t.
Aroniece Jackson spoke on the overcrowding of the prison and poor conditions of the prison. Jackson told Prison Radio there’s no way to social distance inside the facility due to too many people. Additionally, Jackson said inmates have limited access to contact their families.
From Jackson via Prison Radio:
Whenever they’re doing something wrong or, or they, they doing something wrong, they turn off the phone so we can’t call our family. They turn off our TV stations when it’s informative- information on there, based on the prison. There’s so much corruption. There’s so much- it’s sad, man. We really need people to speak out for us because we can’t do it. No, we can’t get our words across. They do us bad in here.
Naykima Hill called into Prison Radio to talk about the super-spreading of COVID-19 inside the facility. Hill said there were no measures taken to ensure the inmates were safe from sick inmates nor was there treatment for those who contracted the virus. Hill also shared she witnessed multiple cases of male correctional officers physically harming inmates.
From Hill via Prison Radio:
Right now, my complaint and my issue is, and we need help, it’s a man officer by the name of Mr. Ross. He hit a girl, beat her down in this prison, and they’ve done nothing. He punched her because she wants to see the sergeant, and he punched her, choked her, picked her up and slammed her and continued to beat her on the ground, and they let him still stay here. Even after that day, he still was here. He still here even almost a year after.
Shawanna Vaughn, founder of Silent Cry Inc. which advocated for the mental health of incarcerated individuals, is looking to sue the prison on behalf of the inmates. Vaughn said she is also advocating for legislation to address mental health of inmates.
“This is an emergency. When Biden said mental health is in a state of emergency, it has to be for everybody. Somehow, those in prison are being left behind,” Vaughn said. “This is also a monopoly that we need to [address] as the taxpayer. Why are these privatized industries making billions and profiting off of mass incarceration in every facet possible? Even if that person is guilty they deserve humanity.”
Vaughn is planning a rally for Feb. 12 to protest these conditions outside of the facility. These testimonies are only the tip of the iceberg of a true emergency that could lead to death or long-term damage to the women of this facility. Even incarcerated individuals deserve their dignity and access to proper care.