WARNING: Video contains graphic language and scenes describing sexual assaults and intimidation
“They crippled me emotionally. They crippled me mentally. I wake up from nightmares about it.”
That’s how one former juvenile prison inmate ‒ identified in court papers as John Doe 17 ‒- describes his ordeal when he was housed with adult prisoners. His account is echoed by others who are part of a class-action lawsuit against the state that’s headed to a jury trial in January.
Bridge Magazine was given permission to show excerpts from the video by an attorney representing the men. The clip, compiled by plaintiffs’ lawyers, is just over seven minutes long. It includes graphic accounts of how they and other juveniles say they were groped, taunted and raped by adults when they were 15 and 16 years old, respectively, under a now-ended policy of housing juveniles with adults in Michigan’s corrections system.
The inmates recount a prison environment heavy with menace, where showers weren't safe — and correctional officers were indifferent to protecting them from assault, and unwilling to document their complaints.
John Doe 17 entered Thumb Correctional Facility at 15, and said he was forced by a correctional officer to perform oral sex. Eventually, he said he was raped by three adult prisoners. It’s an experience that consumes him today.
“My heart drops, like everything, I feel like bawling down and crying,” he said.
A second prisoner – John Doe 42 in the suit – entered prison in 2009 at age 16. In the video, he described losing a fight to a prisoner who demanded oral sex.
The video also contains Department of Corrections footage in which other young inmates are sexually taunted. One juvenile is shown inside a cell, as a voice calls out: “You better be lookin’ pretty, girl.”