The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit today on behalf of individuals incarcerated at Wabash County Jail. The complaint claims the Wabash facility is overcrowded and understaffed, resulting in dangerous, unconstitutional conditions in the jail.
The lawsuit against Wabash County Jail is part of a larger pattern of county jail overcrowding in Indiana. In 2018, an evaluation by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute found 77 percent of Indiana’s jails to be overcrowded or at capacity.
The ACLU of Indiana has filed overcrowding lawsuits in more than a dozen county jails, including six ongoing cases in Allen, Gibson, Henry, Marshall, Vigo, and Wabash County, and one case open for monitoring in Monroe County. The hazardous conditions in these jails result in the denial of basic human needs and violations of the U.S. Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
“Overcrowding inherently leads to conditions that the Supreme Court has found unconstitutional,” said Stevie Pactor, ACLU of Indiana Attorney. “County Sheriffs must ensure the safety and well-being of individuals who are incarcerated.”
The ACLU of Indiana is pairing litigation with advocacy work that focuses on reducing overcrowding by reducing the number of people entering jails and prisons, revising extreme laws and policies that drive extraordinarily long prison terms, and expanding evidence-based opportunities for release. To that end, the ACLU Smart Justice Blueprint outlines a path to cut Indiana’s incarcerated population in half while combatting racial disparities in the criminal legal system.
“The pattern of county jail overcrowding in Indiana highlights the need for larger mass incarceration policy reform,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director. “It’s time to move beyond treating just the symptoms of jail overcrowding, to treating the cause — the policies that have led to this mass incarceration crisis.”