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      Lawsuit settled, prisoners allowed recreation time and trustee positions

      The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the female inmates at the correctional facility who, the ACLU said, were denied access to community service opportunities and trustee positions that were granted to men.

      The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Isabella County Correctional Facility have settled a lawsuit dating back to October of 2012.

      The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the female inmates at the correctional facility who, the ACLU said, were denied access to community service opportunities and trustee positions that were granted to men.

      The trustee positions reportedly are for "trusted inmates" who are permitted time out of their cells to perform prison jobs.

      The ACLU also claimed the practice of keeping all inmates locked in cells for 24 hours per day was unconstitutional.

      "Courts have repeatedly ruled that exercise is extremely important to the psychological and physical well-being of prisoners and denying prisoners an opportunity to exercise constitutes cruel and unusual punishment," said Sarah Mehta, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "People who are behind bars may have made mistakes, but they are still entitled to certain basic human rights."

      Under the settlement, inmates are entitled to use a recreation room with exercise equipment for a minimum of an hour, five days per week. Prison officials must also "make their best effort" to allow out-of-cell recreation seven days per week.

      The ACLU said the county also agreed to adopt a policy that would allow women to be trustees. The policy states that the percentage of trustees who are female must reflect their presence in overall jail population.

      "This settlement is a textbook example of how jail officials and civil rights activists can work together to protect the basic human rights of prisoners," said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan. "The new exercise policy not only brings the jail into compliance with constitutional standards, but it enhances security by reducing violence and improving the mental health of inmates."

      The Isabella County Correctional facility is located in Mount Pleasant and houses about 200 pre-trial detainees and sentenced inmates from across the state.