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

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

OAG staff presented the new findings from a follow-up investigation to the 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 from four different circumstances within the investigation, two of which found that the prison was not in compliance with the corresponding recommendations previously given by the Auditor General.

The first case in which the prison failed to comply surrounds the facility’s ability to implement 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 period, nor did it conduct clothed body searches not. searches of 51% of employees during the same period.

During the hearing, committee chairman Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, questioned the possibility of a conspiracy as to how employees entering the facility correlate to the amount of contraband found.

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

The jail’s second failure to comply stems from its health care services, where Huron Valley was found to have failed to conduct 28% of required chronic care condition health care assessments on time. According to the report, health care reviews 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 an inmate’s incarceration, including electronic medical records.

The auditor general’s office reviewed the medical records of 20 inmates – with conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension and seizures – who were required to undergo a total of 35 chronic care condition health care assessments from January 2021 to May 2022.

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

Statements from MDOC in the report indicate that the department agrees with the findings of the follow-up investigation and will take steps to meet 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 inmate depositions, although concerns were raised about the thoroughness of the searches.

As of June 2022, the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility had 476 employees and housed approximately 1,600 inmates. It is Michigan’s only women’s prison.

Kyle Kaminski, a legislative liaison to 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 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

After questioning by committee members, it appears that answers are still needed about 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 corrections department will be a manual evaluation of the data to see if any patterns emerge that could help them address these concerns.

“It’s different than having the data and actually 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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