Flint, Genesee County, MI: Right2Hug

In Flint, children write messages on the sidewalk outside the jail for their parents who are locked up there to see. In an act of cruelty, the Sheriff washes them away.

Across the United States, hundreds of jails have eliminated in-person family visits over the last decade. The policy change has devastating consequences for the people who are incarcerated, for their children and loved ones, and for public safety generally. Why has this happened? The answer highlights a profound flaw in how decisions too often get made in our legal system: for-profit jail telecom companies realized that they could earn more profit from phone and video calls if jails eliminated free in-person visits for families. So the companies offered sheriffs and county jails across the country a deal: if you eliminate family visits, we’ll give you a cut of the increased profits from the larger number of calls. This led to a wave across the country, as local jails sought to supplement their budgets with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from some of the poorest families in our society.

Our lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of children and parents in Flint, Michigan who were harmed by the decision to end in-person visits at the jail. The lawsuit is brought in state court in Michigan against Sheriff Chris Swanson, Genesee County, the multi-billion dollar for-profit telecom company Global Tel*Link, or GTL, and the company’s CEO Deb Anderson, alleging a conspiracy to violate the plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights. The landmark case raises novel and vital constitutional questions, including—can the government ban children and parents from visiting each other if one of them is jailed even though the policy doesn’t serve any important purpose?

 

Partners: Public Justice, Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonnani & Rivers, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

 

Filings:

Complaint
Motion for Preliminary Injunction
Affidavit of 17-year-old plaintiff S.L.
Affidavit of 12-year-old plaintiff C.L.
Affidavit of 11-year-old plaintiff M.L.
Expert Report & Affidavit of Julie A. Poehlmann
Expert Report & Affidavit of Joshua C. Cochran
Expert Report & Affidavit of Dora Schriro