Pontiac, Michign -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Michigan crime victims in the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by female prisoners against the Department of Corrections alleging abuse by guards. On behalf of the prisoners’ crime victims, Oakland County argued that the settlement money should first be distributed to pay restitution to the prisoners’ crime victims, to pay court costs and fines, and to satisfy child support obligations before dispersing the remainder to the female prisoners in the lawsuit.
"This is a great win for the original crime victims who never received the restitution they were entitled to by law," said Oakland County Corporation Counsel Judith Cunningham.
In its ruling, the Michigan Court of Appeals said the Department of Corrections has an obligation to withhold funds for restitution, court costs and fees, and child support regardless of what was agreed to in the class-action settlement.
"We agree… that there are constitutional and statutory provisions that support victims' rights to recover restitution, as well as the government’s right to recover fines, costs and fees imposed as part of a judgment of sentence. And we also agree that, to the extent that the settlement agreement between the parties is inconsistent with applicable statutes, those provisions are unenforceable.
"Accordingly, we conclude that the MDOC may not disburse any funds to any particular plaintiff class member until there has been 'full payment of all pending restitution orders, costs, and fees' as required by MCL 600.5511(2) for that particular plaintiff class member," the Court of Appeals said.
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