TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A federal judge says the time to act on the issues at the Vigo County Jail is now, not when Vigo County officials and taxpayers agree on a plan, or when financial circumstances have improved.
In an order dated October 10th regarding inmates suing Vigo County leaders, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson set new guidelines for action by county leaders.
According to court documents, the judge vacated the October 15th deadline for the county to file its timeline for the new jail. However, county leaders must still report to the court about progress and address violations.
LINK | SEE COURT DOCUMENTS HERE
The first of those meetings will happen on November 13th, as previously ordered.
At least one week before the hearing, the county must file two plans.
One must be a timeline for construction and staffing of the new jail and the other plan deals with adding more staff for the current facility.
Pending the opening of the new jail, county leaders must take all necessary steps to ensure all inmates are offered at least three hours a week of recreation outside of their cell areas. The defendants must also have enough staff to safeguard the health and safety of inmates in the jail.
The other required plan involves adding more staff in the immediate future. The judge said adding more staff members is a priority in order to minimize the unconstitutional conditions at the current facility.
Vigo County leaders have already taken some action.
On Tuesday night, News 10 told you county council members approved three new jail positions.
At the meeting, an expert recommended adding at least 30 staff members.
In Wednesday's court order, Judge Magnus-Stinson said the court is confident Vigo County will solve the problems, but recognizes that the court may need to step in if there's not progress. Possible measures include creating a three-judge panel, a mandated inmate release, and even the possible closure of the jail.
Magnus-Stinson also found that the plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys' fees. They have 30 days to file their petition for damages. At this time, there will not be a final judgment as the individual damages have not been resolved.
Litigation has been pending for almost two years, but the overcrowding issue has lasted for nearly a decade. The new order also states the court understands jails around the state are dealing with overcrowding problems, compounded by the passage of House Bill 1006.
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