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Michigan jails

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

You might think of Heidi Washington as the chief of 40,000 people scattered across the state in 30 different camps. Except she has much more power over them than any political leader in this nation has over their constituents.

And her job is not only to take care of her people, but to keep us safe from them. She’s the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, which is anything but an easy job.

Six years ago, the superintendent of a small and struggling school district in Gratiot County wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Governor Rick Snyder asking that his school be declared a prison. 

Michael Coghlan / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Ten women have sued Berrien County and two sheriff’s deputies and two sergeants who worked in the county jail.

The women say they were coerced into having sex while they were inmates in the southwest Michigan jail.

The lawsuit filed this month in federal court alleges three of the individual defendants repeatedly requested sexual favors in exchange for money and other benefits between 2008 and 2015.  The complaint says due to the influence of their positions, the three sheriff department personnel were able to coerce or force the plaintiffs to submit to their demands.