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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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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

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