Amended complaint: Marion County inmates held days after release ordered

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Released inmates in Indianapolis are subjected to a “standard operating procedure” of re-arrest and being held behind bars – sometimes for days – after being acquitted, freed by a judge or posting bond, alleges an amended federal complaint filed against the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

“The Marion County Sheriff’s practice of not releasing inmates ordered released on their own recognizance, but rather re-arresting these individuals and imprisoning them in the Marion County correctional system, is unreasonable and results in substantial delays in the release of these individuals,” the amended complaint alleges.

That’s what plaintiff Michael Driver alleges happened to him and potentially thousands of other inmates seeking to certify a class-action complaint in Michael Driver, Terry Clayton, Michael Boyd and Nicholas Swords, et al., v. Marion County Sheriff, 1:14-CV-2076.

Driver was arrested on a Class C misdemeanor drunken-driving charge in December 2014 and held for two days before a bond reduction hearing at which a judge ordered him released on recognizance. Instead, the suit claims, “Marion County Sheriff’s deputies, following the Sheriff’s standard operating procedures, handcuffed Mr. Driver, put him in chains, and returned him under guard to the Marion County Jail where they reimprisoned him.”

“Mr. Driver was imprisoned in the jail an additional two days,” the suit says. “There were 6 to 7 inmates in the Marion County cell block where Mr. Driver was confined who had been approved for release who had been waiting 1 to 5 days and had still not been released.”The suit notes Driver was processed and released in about an hour after the court that ordered his release contacted the jail.

The amended complaint filed Feb. 9 before Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, refines allegations made in the suit filed in December, in which only Driver and Terry Clayton were named plaintiffs.

A jury found Clayton not guilty, but he wasn’t released for another two days, during which the suit alleges corrections officers at the jail told him they had 72 hours to release inmates after receiving orders. “It was not until Mr. Clayton’s public defender prompted the court … to intervene with the Sheriff’s Department that the Sheriff’s Department released Mr. Clayton.”

The amended complaint adds two plaintiffs who allege the jail also held convicted inmates longer than the time they were supposed to serve, and held defendants who made bail for an unreasonable amount of time afterward.

Michael Boyd was sentenced to serve five days for pleading guilty to a drunken-driving charge, and he arranged to take time off work in November 2014 to serve his sentence. But when he should have been let go, he was kept behind bars another two days and released only after his father went to court and a judge intervened, the amended complaint says.

Nicholas Swords was charged with misdemeanor DUI counts and jailed before a judge set a cash bail of $150, which a cousin paid on Dec. 12 of last year. “(The cousin) was told by the clerk not to wait around downtown for his cousin because it would take ‘up to 72 hours’ for the Sheriff to release Mr. Swords,” the complaint says.“Instead of processing Mr. Swords for release, the Marion County Sheriff’s computers did not accurately reflect that Mr. Swords had even seen a judge or that his cash bond had been paid,” the complaint says.

Swords was kept in jail for three days, the complaint says, noting that once his release processing began, he was freed in about 45 minutes.

While the circumstances of the plaintiffs’ prolonged detentions differ, the amended complaint alleges common facts including “a policy, pattern and practice of the Marion County Sheriff in enacting unreasonable procedures resulting in the Sheriff holding incarcerated persons longer than reasonably authorized.”

The sheriff’s computer system is inadequate to ensure timely release of prisoners, and the outsourcing of bond payment and processing to the Marion County Clerk’s Office are cited in the amended complaint as problems causing delays.

The suit also contends that counties surrounding Indianapolis typically process and release inmates in about 30 minutes after bond is posted or release is ordered.

The amended complaint seeks a jury trial and creation of a common fund for class members’ compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and other appropriate relief.

Katie Carlson, spokeswoman for Marion County Sheriff John Layton, said there was no immediate comment because attorneys had not yet reviewed the amended complaint.

An initial pretrial conference was set for Feb. 24.•

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