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Federal judge certifies class-action suit against jail

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A federal judge has certified a class-action suit against the Lake County sheriff and others brought by a group of pretrial detainees who were held in the county jail in conditions they claim were unconstitutional.

Chief Judge Philip P. Simon of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Indiana granted the motion Wednesday in Richard Flood, et al. v. Roy Dominguez, individually in his capacity as sheriff of Lake County, Ind., et al., No. 2:08-CV-153.

The plaintiffs claimed detainees are consistently left in overcrowded holding cells for long periods of time. The holding cells are temporary homes for arrestees before they are moved to permanent housing. The cells range in size from 15-by-15-feet to 20-by-30-feet, have no beds or mattress, one toilet, and hold multiple detainees at a time.

All of the plaintiffs were left in a holding cell for at least 24 hours; some potential class members claim they were held for 3 to 45 days. The plaintiffs argue the conditions of these cells are unsanitary - “the walls and floor are often covered with bodily fluids, each holding cell has one toilet, which is often backed up and rarely has toilet paper; and Jail personnel do not provide detainees any means to clean themselves,” wrote the chief judge.

Their core complaint is that the jail doesn’t provide these detainees beds or something to sleep on. They also argue that food portions are inadequate and they must fight for food, the cells are consistently cold, there’s no ventilation, and bright lights are constantly on.

The class covers all detainees of Lake County, Ind., jail who were confined in the jail’s holding cells for more than 24 hours on or after May 13, 2006.

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