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Settlement Reached over Visitation, Communication with Prisoners’ Children at Indiana Jail

by Scott Grammer

A class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court in 2016 against Allen County, Indiana Sheriff David Gladieux by plaintiffs Ronald Ward and Samuel Chinnis, claimed that prisoners at the county jail “have been and are being forbidden for months and potentially years from seeing their children and, absent financial payment, [barred from] virtually all forms of communicating with their minor children.” 

Not only did the sheriff deny all non-contact visits between prisoners and their children, he also prohibited “the mailing of all cards, photographs, and drawings of any kind to pretrial detainees from their minor children.” The complaint noted that “[o]ther communication by Class Members with their minor children, whether by telephone call or mailed letter, is limited, particularly for Class Members who are indigent.... [T]elephone service at the Allen County Jail is exorbitantly expensive. This telephone service is operated by a for-profit corporation that charges approximately $4 for fifteen minutes of calling time.” 

Ward and Chinnis argued that the jail’s policies “violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Sections 9 and 12 of Article 1 of the Indiana State Constitution,” and that its rules regarding mail from minor children provided for no exceptions and no “opportunity for procedural redress.” 

A settlement was reached on May 9, 2018. Among other changes, it stipulates that prisoners can receive photos no larger than 3”x5,” though those convicted of or facing charges for “Zachary offenses” (sex-related crimes) may not possess photos depicting minors. Letters may be received, provided they are written on white or yellow paper in blue or black ink. The settlement also specifies that detainees “will have the same privileges to receive visits from their minor children or minor relatives that they have to receive visits from any other non-restricted visitor,” although those convicted of or facing charges for a “Zachary offense” may be denied visits with minor children. Each party paid its own attorney’s fees and costs. See: Ward v. Gladieux, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 1:16-cv-00099-TLS-SLC. 

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Additional sources: media.ibj.com, theindianalawyer.com

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