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Sheriffs Meet to Discuss Overcrowded Indiana Jails Problem

Steve Wagner


  • In the past decade, over 10,000 inmates have had their human rights and personal freedoms stripped from them and lost their lives in both city and county jails.
  • Many of these deaths were attributed to sickness because health care services are often abysmal and lead to needless suffering, mental distress, disability, and death while too many others are the result of negligence or abuse from authorities.
  • Prisoner health and safety is often influenced by structural determinants such as jail or prison overcrowding.
  • Indiana sheriffs recently met to discuss the significant medical and mental health needs of inmates due to the shuffling of prisoners and overcrowding issues occurring at several Indiana jails.

Indiana’s Overcrowded Jails Have Sheriffs Sharing Concerns

This spring, Indiana sheriffs along with state and local leaders, met for a roundtable meeting. While health and school safety were high on the agenda topics, jail overcrowding and inmate well-being were also serious issues discussed. Highlights and information provided through this meeting included:

  • The Vanderburgh County Jail has a maximum capacity of 550 but right now it’s holding 840 inmates.
  • About 80 inmates at the overcrowded county jail in Evansville will be moved as officials send them to jails in Illinois and Kentucky to alleviate the congestion because most other Indiana jail officials said they could take fewer than 10 inmates at a time.
  • Many of those inmates are dealing with mental illness.

With state lawmakers getting ready to plan the budget, Indiana Sheriffs’ Association representatives have responded to local news sources by saying, “It’s time to start putting together a wish list for funding.” At Wagner Reese, we certainly hope this true. Inmates do not deserve to fall ill, become injured or lose their lives, because their human rights and personal freedoms have been stripped from them.

Dismal Jail and Prison Conditions Can Result from Overcrowding

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine published a report in 2014 titled, The Growth of INCARCERATION in the United States. Through this reading, authors conclude that awful jail and prison conditions often result from overcrowding and some scholars have gone as far as saying when jail and prison facilities are being stretched so thin that they constitute a violation of the “cruel and unusual punishment” provision of the Eighth Amendment. Common issues related to jail and prison overcrowding include:

  • Inmate behavior can be affected to the extent that it leads to self-harm or violent behavior to others.
  • Negative effects on the health and well-being of the people living in these conditions may adversely affect public health and the prison system.
  • Increase in the prevalence of diseases, particularly infectious and psychiatric disorders.
  • Hinder the work of social rehabilitation and lead to inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment.

Unfortunately, issues and the problems related to overcrowding shouldn’t come by surprise. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a rate five to ten times higher than those of countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. According to the ACLU, we are the only democracy with no independent authority to monitor prison conditions and enforce minimal standards of health and safety even though correctional facilities have a duty to ensure the health and safety of those in their charge.

Jail and Prison Wrongful Death Cases

If your loved one has suffered injury or death in an overcrowded Indiana jail or prison, the wrongful death attorneys at Wagner Reese can assist you in recovering financial damages for the losses you have sustained. Contact us now at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis or Carmel offices or submit your information on our confidential contact form.


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