Lawsuit claims Michigan's women prison has dangerous toxic mold

Posted at 8:07 AM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 11:37:39-05

(WXYZ) — A lawsuit filed in federal court this week claims inmates at Michigan's only women's prison are being subject to dangerous and toxic conditions due to mold.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Paula Bailey, Krystal Clark and Hope Zentz, all of whom are inmates at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility for Women (WHV) in Ypsilanti.

According to the lawsuit, "Incarcerated women are regularly denied hygienic conditions and movement at WHV, in part because the facilities have been allowed to deteriorate beyond their useful lives, and because WHV’s facilities were not originally designed to house the number of incarcerated women they currently house."

The suit claims that when it rains at the facility, water pours into the building, sits stagnant and creates mold. Jon Marko of Marko Law said that a worker reported the roof leaked so badly that it sorted the lights, and others reported that water coming out of a moldy ceiling "looked like coffee."

According to the lawsuit, prisoners at the facility have shown signs of mold exposure for years, and that Michigan Department of Corrections employees are also subject to the conditions on a daily basis.

"No government in a civilized society should treat their people this way, not even prisoners," Marko said in a release. "These women are essentially trapped in poisonous cages. If the authorities came to your house and saw your pet being treated like these women are being treated, they would haul you off to jail."

Clark alleges in the lawsuit that she observed mold in at least three units during her time at the facility, and that "she has developed significant respiratory problems and other mold-related symptoms."

The lawsuit also said that Zentz began experiencing headaches and dizziness after a year and a half in unit 2, which she said had mold on the prison windows, showers, heat registers and vents. She claims her symptoms only went away when she left the facility and got fresh air.

Zentz also claims that she was told by MDOC health care that her problems were caused by exposure to mold in the prison.

In once instance, the lawsuit said that mold dripped from the ceiling in the shower onto Bailey's face and body, which left her with a rash and visible scars on her face, chest and legs.

It also said that MDOC health staff told Bailey that her medical conditions were caused by mold at the women's prison.

The lawsuit is seeking monetary relief and a court order that would force the MDOC to make the prison safe.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections released this statement: "The staff at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility work hard every day to better the lives of the women there and take seriously that responsibility and duty. From the officers, to the maintenance staff, to the warden, everyone understands their critical role in not only public safety, but in the health and safety of the prisoners and staff inside the facility. We disagree with the claims in the lawsuit, but we do not comment on pending litigation."