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$1.23 Million Settles Indiana Jail Conditions Suit

by Derek Gilna

Officials in Floyd County, Indiana agreed on July 24, 2017 to settle a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged jail officials kept prisoners in padded cells, “deprived [them] of clothing, bedding, and hygiene products,” and tased and pepper-sprayed them. Named as defendants in the 2014 complaint were former sheriff Darrell Mills, jail staff and the Floyd County Commissioners, who were accused of violating the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.

 The class members in the suit consisted of “All inmates confined from June 12, 2012, to present in the Floyd County Jail who were not on a suicide watch, but were housed in a padded cell where they were deprived of clothing, bedding, and hygiene products.”

The complaint also alleged that “upon information and belief, video footage was taken of the above abuses. This video footage, which includes clear and graphic depictions of Plaintiffs’ naked bodies, is available to Floyd County Sheriff employees, other members of Floyd County government, and to the general public.”

Under the terms of the $1.23 million settlement, class members will receive a maximum of $25,000 while an additional $15,000 will be distributed to each of the six named class members as incentive awards – after payment of attorney fees and costs. All prisoners who were pepper-sprayed or tased will receive another $3,000. Attorney fees and costs were estimated at 37% of the total settlement fund.

Beyond the monetary payments, the agreement provides that all “Field Training Officers employed by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department will be independently certified.... All new jail employees with responsibility for inmate supervision will undergo employee orientation and receive training for handling inmates,” and supervisory staff at the jail will receive additional training from the National Institute of Corrections.

Final approval of the settlement was entered by the district court on August 2, 2017. See: Gentry v. Floyd County, Indiana, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ind.), Case No. 4:14-cv-00054-TAB-RLY. 

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Related legal case

Gentry v. Floyd County, Indiana