Port Huron, St. Clair County, MI: Right2Hug

“I love my family”. Drawing by A.P., a four year old who was separated from her dad for almost eight months.

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 family members of jailed people in Port Huron, 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 Mat King, St. Clair County, and the multi-billion dollar for-profit telecom company Securus, the company’s billionaire owner, Tom Gores, and Platinum Equity, the private equity firm that manages it, and several other corporate executives, 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 serves no important purpose?

 

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

 

Filings:

Complaint
Motion For Preliminary Injunction
Affidavit of 12-year-old plaintiff M.M.
Affidavit of 23-year-old plaintiff Marie Bills
Expert Report & Affidavit of Julie A. Poehlmann
Expert Report & Affidavit of Joshua C. Cochran
Expert Report & Affidavit of Dora Schriro