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Inmate Rebecca Smith Files Lawsuit Over Scabies Outbreak At Michigan Women's Prison

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An inmate serving time at Michigan's only women's prison has filed a class action lawsuit over a scabies outbreak that affected hundreds of inmates.

Scabies Outbreak At Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility

In the lawsuit, Rebecca Smith, who is serving at least 25 years in prison for a murder conviction, said that inmates at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility suffered itching and permanent scarring because the Michigan Department of Correction failed to promptly treat or properly diagnose a scabies outbreak.

Scabies is caused by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei that live on the skin for months. These creatures burrow into the skin and lay eggs, causing red and itchy rashes.

The skin condition is contagious and can easily spread through close physical contact, so doctors usually recommend treatment for entire families or contact groups.

The lawsuit claims the contagious skin disease started to spread in 2017, but the MDOC did not publicly acknowledge the issue until this year, when the facility was temporarily closed to visitors.

Like The Worst Mosquito Bite

In March 2018, Smith told Detroit Free Press that she had the rash since October 2017, and some women had rashes before that.

In the lawsuit, the 44-year-old said that the itching became unbearable by April 2018, and she was unable to sleep, but there was no response to her request for a sick call.

"It itches unlike anything — it's like the worst mosquito bite," Smith said.

Smith's lawyer, Daniel Randazzo, said he has letters from more than 200 inmates who had the infection. Some of whom suffered for six to eight months.

The suit claims the department and other defendants, which include department Director Heidi Washington, Warden Shawn Brewer, and Corizon Health Inc., which holds a five-year, $715.7 million prison health contract with the state, should have known the infestation among the prisoners and the contagious nature of the disease.

The lawsuit also said the defendants failed to make reasonable steps to mitigate the infection, treat those infected, and quarantine inmates. It also alleged the defendants failed to make a proper diagnosis of the infestation after minimal testing.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Thursday, April 11.

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