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Lansing – The Michigan Supreme Court has cleared the way for prisoners to sue the Corrections Department for alleged civil rights violations.

The court declined to take an appeal from state officials. They’re accused of failing to prevent prisoners from physically abusing inmates who were under 18 years old.

The Michigan Constitution says “no person shall be denied the equal protection of laws” when receiving a public service. But in 1999, lawmakers carved out an exception, saying public service doesn’t include prisons or jails.

The state appeals court in 2018 declared that exception unconstitutional. The Supreme Court last week didn’t take the case, which means the earlier decision will stand.

Justices Brian Zahra and Stephen Markman wanted to hear it. They say the Supreme Court “should have the final word on this significant issue of Michigan constitutional law.”

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