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Keeping tabs on overcrowding at Vigo County Jail

Aaron Hos is one of hundreds of prisoners at the Vigo County Jail who was living in harmful conditions that should have been remedied more than a decade ago. Instead, in August 2013, these conditions were again the subject of an ACLU of Indiana class action lawsuit filed in Vigo Superior Court.

In 2002, following a similar case, the ACLU of Indiana (then the Indiana Civil Liberties Union of ICLU) entered into an agreement with the Vigo County Sheriff and Commissioners to address the overcrowding and other conditions at the jail. The agreement stated that absent short-term emergency situations, the population would "not exceed 268 persons," and that all prisoners would be offered at least three hours per week of recreation outside their immediate cell areas. As part of the settlement, an annex to the jail was built and a formal settlement agreement was entered that was binding as a contract on the Sheriff and Commissioners.

The overcrowded conditions at the jail violated the U.S. Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishments.

Yet more than a decade later, there were 293 prisoners at the jail, according to our 2013 lawsuit, Hos et al. v. Vigo County Sheriff, Vigo County Commissioners, and the cell areas were "extremely dirty, with insects and black mold." Our breach of contract case asked the Sheriff and Commissioners to honor their agreement, which limited the jail population to 268 and offered the proper recreation to prisoners.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the jail has made efforts to keep the population below the agreed limit, and the ACLU of Indiana receives daily status reports on the number of prisoners housed there. The Sheriff and Commissioners have indicated that they are beginning a detailed review of the criminal justice system in Vigo County that they hope will lead to a permanent solution to the jail's population problems.

Making sure those in charge of our state prisons and jails comply with orders to remedy such abuses is part of the ACLU of Indiana's work to reform our criminal justice system across the Hoosier state.

See a news report about the case