Mich. women suing prison over scabies outbreak

The lawsuit claims that more than 200 inmates suffered from the parasitic mites


Audra Gamble and Audra Gamble
Holland Sentinel, Mich.

YPSILANTI, Mich. — A federal lawsuit states inmates at Michigan's only prison for women suffered severe itching and permanent scarring because officials took more than a year to diagnose and properly treat a scabies outbreak.

The Detroit Free Press reports the lawsuit on behalf of prisoner Rebecca Smith was filed Thursday, April 11. Smith's lawyer, Daniel Randazzo, says he has letters from more than 200 inmates at Huron Valley prison near Ypsilanti who suffered during the outbreak of parasitic mites that burrow under the skin and lay eggs.

The lawsuit claims the Michigan Department of Corrections was entirely responsible for providing healthcare to its inmates, who "continue to be deprived of access to basic healthcare."

"(The MDOC) deliberately failed to adequately screen those entering its facility, respond to inmate requests for medical attention, treat those infested with the parasite, quarantine the infected individuals in its care, or to take any other precautions to prevent the spread of scabies outside the facility," the lawsuit states. "This caused a foreseeable and preventable systematic outbreak which spread to (Smith) and all others similarly situated."

Smith said the itching caused by the outbreak was so intense, she was unable to sleep and became physically ill from stress.

The lawsuit, while filed on behalf of Smith, also includes female inmates "exposed to and infested with scabies, who are, who have been, or who in the future may become, housed at the defendant's facility."

The Michigan Department of Corrections didn't comment on the pending lawsuit, but has said over the past year it was working to deal with the rashes and determine the source.

Smith says it's difficult to estimate possible damages that could come from the case.

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©2019 Holland Sentinel, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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