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County jail officials in Southern Indiana accused of abusing inmates

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A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of former inmates accuses officials at the Floyd County jail of forcibly stripping the inmates of their clothing and keeping them naked in a padded cell for prolonged periods of time in violation of their constitutional rights.

The complaint, Gentry et al. v. Floyd County, Indiana, et al., 4:14-cv-00054, was filed June 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana by Louisville attorney Laura Landenwich of Clay Daniel Walton & Adams PLC.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the defendants forcibly removed their clothing without any suspicion or probable cause of any threat and security risk. The plaintiffs charge the defendants regularly exposed the detainees’ naked bodies to officers of the opposite sex and subjected their bodies to harmful and extremely offensive touching.

The plaintiffs described the defendants’ conduct as torture.

“Defendants’ treatment of Plaintiffs and other class members is intolerable in a civilized society, and presents a marked departure from the standard to which the Western world adheres for the treatment of prisoners of war during wartime, let alone the standards of acceptable treatment for American citizens on American soil,” the lawsuit states.

Tabitha Gentry and the three other named plaintiffs were all arrested separately between February 2013 and May 2014 on various misdemeanor charges such as public intoxication and disorderly conduct. After being arrested and taken to the county jail, each allege they had their shoes, pants, shirt, and underwear removed by the Floyd County Sheriff’s deputies and were given only a small blanket, called a “smock,” with which to cover themselves. Also, they were not allowed to use the restroom facilities, having instead to use a drain in the floor as a toilet.

The lawsuit accuses the jail employees of dispensing pepper spray into Gentry’s cell then forcing her to walk naked to and from a washing station in front of male officers and male inmates. The suit also alleges that a Taser was used on plaintiff Vincent Minton’s buttocks, and plaintiff Adam Walker was subjected to Taser use seven times and choked until he lost consciousness.

Plaintiffs assert that through the “intentional and grossly negligent conduct” of the defendants, they were deprived of their rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In addition, the plaintiffs allege they have suffered “physical harm, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish” as a result of the defendants not providing the proper training regarding unlawful searches, the reasonable use of force and the rights of detainees.

The lawsuit concludes that the plaintiffs and members of the class are entitled to both actual damages and punitive damages.

Moreover, the plaintiffs and the class requested the U.S. District Court to issue a declaratory judgment deeming unconstitutional all written policies and unwritten practices that subject detainees to these “humiliating and/or torturous practices” and to permanently enjoin the defendants from following or enforcing such policies and procedures.

 

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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