Henry County jail inmates file lawsuit against sheriff

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HENRY COUNTY, Ind. – Inmates at the Henry County Jail have filed a lawsuit against the Henry County Sheriff and county commissioners, claiming that the jail is overcrowded, unsanitary and violates their constitutional rights.

The Henry County Jail has been around for more than 30 years without any significant renovations, and inmates say the jail is filthy and overcrowded.

“We believe they are violating the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments. Basically, it is because there are so many people in such small areas and there appears to be sewage on the floors and mold on the walls and the floor,” said the inmates’ attorney Tracy Newhouse.

Photos taken inside the jail show mold growing on the ceiling, inmates sleeping on the floor near a toilet and three people in a single cell. Each picture is now evidence in a lawsuit filed by five inmates against the Henry County Sheriff and the county commissioners.

“They are using shower drains to use the restroom,” said Newhouse.

Some of the inmates complain about trouble breathing and vomiting from the pervasive mold in the showers and cell ceilings, being forced to sleep naked in a padded cell, and three days without toilet paper, due to overcrowding and lack of supplies.

“It is just not something that you would expect to see here in the State of Indiana or in the United States of America,” said Newhouse.

Issues at the jail have been frequent. This summer, inmates set fired inside of the jail twice, attempting to break out of their cells. Then just last month, two men already in the jail beat another inmate to death. In 2014, two inmates escaped through the ceiling of the jail. The documents say the jail has been overcrowded and understaffed for years and believe the conditions will lead to more issues if it is not fixed.

“It is probably more cost effective to just build a new facility or house elsewhere. The current existing structure is just not suitable for inmates,” said Newhouse.

The lawyers representing the inmates say the timeline for the renovations or construction depend on the level of cooperation from the county, but believe that Henry County Sheriff Richard McCorkle wants a new jail.

Right now, Sheriff McCorkle and the Henry County commissioners are not able to comment.

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