A proposed class action has been filed in Indiana federal court over allegedly unconstitutional conditions in the Henry County Jail. The lawsuit, which names as defendants Henry County, Indiana and the county’s sheriff, alleges the jail facility suffers from chronic overcrowding and understaffing that aggravate tension between prisoners and result in “the denial of basic human needs.”
Citing a recent inspection report, the case claims the facility far exceeded its original 76-bed capacity when an additional third bunk was added to each cell without authorization from the chief jail inspector, resulting in a total of 116 beds. The plaintiff, who has been incarcerated in the jail on several occasions, alleges the facility is “overcrowded 100% of the time,” with some prisoners forced to sleep on cell floors or in the indoor recreation area where “there are no toilets or showers.”
Adding to the allegedly tense conditions, the lawsuit argues that the lack of space prevents prisoners from being properly classified and separated when necessary.
“Classification is essential to protect the safety of both prisoners and staff,” the complaint reads. “For example, prisoners with mental and physical disabilities should be separated from those without those disabilities, prisoners who are prone to be preyed upon should be separated from predators, prisoners who have previous problems with each other should be separated, etc.”
The case claims the overcrowding and lack of separation, coupled with chronic understaffing, have led to frequent assaults among prisoners and continuously dangerous conditions in the facility.
The plaintiff says he attempted on several occasions to file a formal grievance with the defendants but was denied access to grievance forms on all but one occasion. He claims that though defendants have “been on notice for some time” concerning the jail’s alleged deficiencies, with the county sheriff even acknowledging in 2013 that “the jail could no longer provide effective or safe housing for inmates,” no steps have been taken to resolve the issues.