On January 19, 2007, an Indiana county jail inmate, represented by the ACLU, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against Grant County, Indiana, over overcrowding in the Grant County Jail. Plaintiff alleged that overcrowding in the jail had resulted in a substantial degradation of jail conditions, including frequent fighting among inmates, inadequate food, and lack of access to exercise and recreational facilities. He alleged that the result violated Indiana law, the Fourteenth Amendment (for pretrial detainees), and the Eighth Amendment (for convicted inmates). Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. §1983, 28 U.S.C. §2201, and Indiana state law, the complaint sought class-certification, and declaratory relief, preliminary and injunctive relief requiring defendants to improve living conditions at the Grant County Jail; and costs and attorneys’ fees.
On May 9, 2007, the judge assigned to the case, Judge Rudy Lozano, granted plaintiff's motion for class certification. The class was defined as all current and future prisoners of the facility. Judge Lozano also dismissed plaintiff’s state law claims, but left plaintiff’s constitutional claims open for further litigation.
After slightly under a year, the parties notified the court of their intention to enter into a private settlement agreement on March 20, 2008. The judge to whom the case had been reassigned, Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen, approved the settlement agreement on July 30, 2008, after a fairness hearing and notification of the rest of plaintiff’s class.
In the settlement agreement, the parties recognized that the Grant County Jail population had remained at or below its rated capacity for the last 90 days prior to the agreement. Going forwards, defendants agreed that if the population of the Grant County Jail exceeded a set amount for an agreed upon period, then they would take steps to notify interested parties (including plaintiffs’ counsel), and attempt to transfer Grant County inmates to other Indiana jails. Defendants also agreed to take other steps to keep down the Grant County Jail population, including limiting how many prisoners that they would accept from other Indiana jails and considering other locations to house low-security prisoners. Defendants further agreed to make a number of changes to improve living conditions in Grant County Jail, including a guarantee of least two hours of vigorous physical exercise a week, a guarantee of improved bedding in the event that Grant County ever exceeded its rated capacity, and additional corrections officers to better monitor inmates. Defendants also agreed to pay plaintiffs $7,500 in attorneys’ fees, and $2,570.12 in costs.
The settlement agreement also included provisions to monitor and enforce Grant County’s compliance with its terms. Defendants agreed to provide plaintiffs’ counsel with a listing of the daily population in Grant County Jail every 30 days. The parties further agreed to file a joint report with the court every six months on the conditions at Grant County Jail, and on any changes or problems that may have arisen in the intervening period. As per the parties’ request, Judge Von Bokken agreed to keep the case open until December 31, 2012, to allow the parties to seek enforcement or modification of the agreement if needed.
On January 4, 2013, Judge Bokkelen dismissed the case with prejudice. Over the 4 intervening years, the parties had periodically sent joint-status reports to the court, as per the terms of the agreement. Neither party ever moved to enforce or modify the agreement in court. Anjali Biala - 10/14/2013
Ryan Berry - 08/15/2016