In 1974, inmates filed a class action lawsuit in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against Lake County Council and Sheriff challenging the conditions at the Lake County Jail. One of these conditions was the treatment of inmates by police officers who were assigned to work as ...
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In 1974, inmates filed a class action lawsuit in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against Lake County Council and Sheriff challenging the conditions at the Lake County Jail. One of these conditions was the treatment of inmates by police officers who were assigned to work as correctional officers. Lake County did not employ correctional officers; rather, police officers punished for misconduct were assigned to do the job and often mistreated inmates. In 1980, the parties avoided trial by entering into a consent decree requiring compliance by jail personnel with standardized rules and the protection of prisoners from harm caused by jail personnel and others. Two years later when defendants were not in compliance, they entered into a broader agreement. This agreement required the Sheriff to create a separate corrections division to be staffed by an adequate number of properly trained personnel.
Defendants failed to implement these changes and on July 1, 1985, the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana filed an order requiring the changes to be completed by January 1, 1986. Defendants complied with the provisions but the corrections monitor objected to an amendment that allowed the sheriff to have greater discretion in hiring. The 1985 decree had given the monitor final authority over employment decisions. The sheriff filed a petition on May 11, 1993 requesting that the district court modify the 1985 decree so that there would be no further involvement by the monitor in employment decisions. On September 14, 1993, the district court entered an order denying the sheriff's motion. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Judges Cummings, Easterbrook, and Manion) affirmed the decision of the district court and noted that the sheriff should not be seeking a modification but rather implementation of the 1985 decree, since he was asserting that its conditions have been fulfilled and the monitor was no longer needed. Jensen v. Stiglich, 36 F.3d 1099 (7th Cir. 1994).
Defendants filed a motion to terminate the consent decree following the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which made it easier to terminate court orders relating to prison conditions. Defendants were represented by private counsel. The district court (Judge Rodolfo Lozano) determined that the PLRA could be applied to relief that was granted before the enactment of the Act and that the provisions of the PLRA would entitle defendants to termination. Jenson v. County of Lake, 958 F.Supp. 397 (N.D. Ind. 1997). The court also noted that the PLRA allowed it to refuse to terminate the decree if it was necessary to correct ongoing violations. Since plaintiffs alleged ongoing conditions in the jail, the court decided to take the motion under advisement and allow plaintiffs to present evidence at a hearing. There is no further information regarding this litigation.Angela Heverling - 03/06/2006