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Mandatory Mediation Program Will Resolve Michigan Civil Rights Cases Involving Prisoners

Saturday, June, 23, 2018


Some prisoners in Michigan facilities will be required to enter mediation after filing their civil rights complaints, according to a new program. 


The Early Mediation Program is a pilot program scheduled to last for two years and will involve federal civil rights complaints.  According to supporters of the program, it will save the state money and give prisoners more control over the outcome of their cases.


According to Detroit Federal District Judge Victoria Roberts, “Many prisoners have legitimate claims, but lack the legal education to successfully navigate the legal system.  These lawsuits create a significant drain on state and federal resources.  We think many of these cases can be resolved if we can get everybody in the same room to come to a resolution satisfactory to everyone. ”


The director for the Michigan Department of Corrections also supports the program and believes it will make the process of filing and settling complaints more efficient.  She believes cases will be resolved faster and reduce the burden on the Department of Corrections and on taxpayers.


For now, the program is limited to complaints filed in the Easter District.  In 2017, 248 complaints were filed and prisoners represented themselves 97 percent of the time.  Only cases in which a prisoner chooses to represent him or herself will be eligible for the program.


Several states, including Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Pennsylvania and California, currently have similar programs operating.


The goal in Michigan’s pilot program is to resolve about 65 to 75 percent of cases.  Any settlement reached in mediation will be placed on the record.  If no settlement occurs, the case will proceed to court.  More than 40 mediators, all of whom are lawyers, are expected to take part in the program on a voluntary basis.