Wrongful detention complaints grow against Marion County Jail

March 26, 2015

A Hendricks County man claims he lost his job because the Marion County Jail detained him five days longer than he was sentenced. That’s the latest allegation in a federal lawsuit seeking damages for alleged unreasonable release procedures that may have left thousands behind bars in Indianapolis longer than they should have been.

A second amended complaint  filed this week in a proposed class action adds the complaint of Roy Shofner, 46, to previous allegations. Shofner claims he was sentenced to serve nine days in the Marion County Jail on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge. His sentence was to begin Feb. 4 and end Feb. 12, after which he would be released to home detention through Community Correction.

Shofner arranged to be off work the nine days he was supposed to spend in jail, but he wasn’t let out until Feb. 17. Shofner “lost his job because he missed scheduled shifts he was obligated to work during the time he was falsely incarcerated,” the complaint says.

“Rather than release Mr. Shofner on February 12, 2015 and allow him to report to Community Correction per the Court order, the Marion County Sheriff followed its standard practice to keep such individuals incarcerated until Community Corrections is ‘ready’ to process a group of such individuals, and then the Sheriff transports the individuals as a group under guard to the Community Correction facility just a few blocks away from the jail,” the complaint alleges.

The Marion County Sheriff was sued in December, when two plaintiffs alleged they were detained for days longer than they should have been. The first amended complaint  filed in February alleged that released inmates are subjected to a “standard operating procedure” of re-arrest and detention after being acquitted, freed by a judge or posting bond.

The suit alleges the sheriff’s office claims it has three days to free someone from jail after the person has been ordered released.

Sheriff John Layton, through a spokeswoman, previously blamed problems on technology changes that took place last June with conversion to the Odyssey case management system, now used by nearly half the counties in the state including all of Marion County’s neighbors.

Those surrounding counties “have not experienced an increase in their average half-hour release times” since adopting Odyssey, the second amended complaint says. “The Sheriff has enacted an unreasonable policy of not abiding by court orders for the release of jail inmates when such orders appear on the Odyssey system until after three separate sheriff department employees manually read the court’s entire case minutes for the inmate’s criminal case in order to 'make sure' the court really wants the inmate released.”

The suit notes release delays also can be traced to a decision years ago to outsource payment and collection of cash bonds from the jail to the Marion County Clerk’s office at the City-County Building. The suit claims that before these changes, Marion County routinely freed inmates within 30 minutes of a release order, as is typical of other counties.  

The amended complaint says that despite allegations of wrongful detentions dating to last year, problems with delayed releases persist. The proposed class of plaintiffs does not include people presently incarcerated.

“The Marion County Sheriff’s office does not try litigation in the media,” spokeswoman Katie Carlson said in response to a message seeking comment.    



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