University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Madison County Jail Inmates v. Thompson JC-IN-0008
Docket / Court 79-675 ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
In November of 1979, inmates at the Madison County (Indiana) Jail brought a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the county board of commissioners and the county sheriff, alleging that the conditions in the jail violated their constitutional rights. They were seeking declaratory ... read more >
In November of 1979, inmates at the Madison County (Indiana) Jail brought a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the county board of commissioners and the county sheriff, alleging that the conditions in the jail violated their constitutional rights. They were seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages. On February 15, 1980, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Judge William E. Steckler) entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the inmates. The court approved a consent decree describing the conditions of the jail. Among these conditions were lack of heating and ventilation, unsanitary living conditions, inoperative bathroom facilities, and cockroach infestation. The jail also lacked policies regarding inmate classification and inmates' right to communicate with outsiders, including attorneys. The jail was overcrowded and violent criminals could not be segregated and inmates could not be properly supervised. The consent decree ordered the construction of a new facility and interim improvements in the existing facility. A jury had awarded the inmates significant damages and the district court, in entering its judgment, reduced that to nominal damages. The opinion from the district court is not available.

On May 9, 1980, following the death of an inmate, plaintiffs filed a petition requesting that the court determine whether the defendants were in compliance with the consent decree. In June of 1981, the district court found that although the defendants were not strictly complying with the decree, they were acting in good faith. In a later pre-trial conference, it was agreed that the class would be closed as of the June 1981 date. In a subsequent trial in November of 1983, a jury found that the jail did not meet minimum constitutional standards for some of the period after the consent decree was issued. The jury awarded damages in excess of half a million dollars. The district court again reduced the amount to nominal damages in a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, noting that plaintiffs cannot recover monetary damages for violations of constitutional rights in the absence of proof of actual harm.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Senior District Judge Jameson) affirmed the reduction in damages because there was not sufficient evidence of actual harm to the inmates to support the jury's award. Madison County Jail Inmates v. Thompson, 773 F.2d 834 (7th Cir. 1985).

Angela Heverling - 03/06/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Madison County Jail
Plaintiff Description inmates of the Madison County Jail in Indiana
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1980 - 1981
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Reported Opinion 10/07/1985 (773 F.2d 834)
JC-IN-0008-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Jameson, William James (D. Mont.)
JC-IN-0008-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Sutherlin, Michael K. (Indiana)
JC-IN-0008-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Terrell, Stephen M. (Indiana)
JC-IN-0008-0001
Other Lawyers None on record

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