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ACLU files federal suit against corrections center

April 27, 2007

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a federal lawsuit this week against the Marion County Community Corrections Center in Indianapolis, alleging the facility's conditions violate the Constitution and threaten health and safety of inmates.

Filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court ;s Southern District in Indianapolis, the suit alleges that conditions at 147 E. Maryland St. remain deplorable despite improvements made in past months and more planned on the horizon. Specifically, the suit cites overcrowding and an Indiana Department of Correction report released in January that detailed leaking sewage, mold in the ventilation system, and security concerns. Inmate population has also been decreased from 340 to about 200.

Some of those issues have been addressed, but ACLU-IN legal director Ken Falk said the improvements to the 100-year-old facility are not enough and have happened too slowly.

The suit seeks class-action certification but is on behalf of inmate Anthony Buford-Lewis III, who's been incarcerated there since Feb. 2 for a probation violation on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. The suit claims he has been exposed to these "dangerous conditions" but also notes he is expected to be released next week.

This is the latest in a string of suits filed by the ACLU-IN regarding jail conditions. One filed in January on behalf of Grant County inmates claims the county jail is understaffed and overcrowding has contributed to fights and decreased safety. That suit is pending in the Fort Wayne division of the U.S. District Court's Northern District of Indiana.

According to the ACLU-IN Web site, at least six similar overcrowding or jail condition suits are ongoing or have been recently settled from counties that include Gibson, Elkhart, Knox, Brown, and Vanderburgh counties. The organization reports that it continues monitoring those situations to ensure compliance.

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