'Going to Jail'
When Monroe County Jail inmate Trevor Richardson formally complained about conditions in the county "correctional center" the day after Christmas last year, he made the place sound like a third-world prison.
"I have been in jail the past 129 days and have been consistently subject to inhumane, unsanitary and harsh conditions," he wrote in a Dec. 26, 2007, grievance filed with county corrections officials. "I don't understand why on a 24 man block we probably average a constant 70 inmates with just two showers and bathrooms available to us."
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In a federal lawsuit filed a month-and-a-half later against the Monroe County sheriff and the county commissioners, Richardson added "dangerous" to his list of descriptors. He asked U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young to determine whether "conditions in the Monroe County Jail violate the United States Constitution and Indiana law."
Stoops for Commissioner
Thomas for County Council
Democratic candidates Mark Stoops (Commissioner, District 2) and Julie Thomas (Monroe County Council At-Large) held a joint press conference on Saturday October 4. With the Monroe County Jail in the background, the two candidates outlined their opposition to the construction of a new jail in Monroe County.
Hal Taylor couldn’t be any more direct when asked if Monroe County should build a new jail. “No,” the 89-year-old prison-reform advocate answered during an interview in his jailhouse office.
In his duties with New Leaf, New Life, a nonprofit organization that injects a dose of therapeutic justice into the county’s reluctant criminal justice system, Taylor and colleagues like Tania Karnofsky speak face-to-face with 40 to 50 nonviolent inmates each week.
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The jail, designed for 126 prisoners but which housed 334 on Sept. 21, is full of people who do not belong there, they say. Building a new jail would simply perpetuate a broken system.
“If we have a new jail,” Taylor said, “all the problems that are causing this jail to be overflowing would cause the next jail to be overflowing in another month after they got the new jail in. We’ve got to have real reform.”
Related story: Stoops, Thomas offer alternatives to new jail
The first stop on a Jim Kennedy-led tour of the county jail is a tiny segregation cell holding a wild-eyed, drawn-faced man who looks to be in his 50s. As the inmate spoke through the inches-thick slit of a window, Sheriff Kennedy told him he couldn’t hear and to speak through the door jam.
A couple seconds after the sheriff moved his ear to the door’s edge, the man started shouting. Most of it was unintelligible from my vantage point about 5 feet from the secured steel door, but I did clearly discern: “I’m a veteran. … Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!”
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Just a few minutes earlier in his office, Kennedy had explained that the Monroe County Correctional Facility, which occupies the top two floors of the Justice Building at Seventh Street and College Avenue, was designed and built to house 126 inmates.
When Linda Ball noticed the police car following her on the evening of July 21, the mental image of standing naked in front of a stranger while being debugged was not one she could have envisioned. But then, the 54-year-old grandmother had no reason -- none whatsoever -- to imagine any of the events that would transpire over the next 15 hours.
It was about 10:30 on a Monday night when she saw the Bloomington Police Department squad car in her rearview mirror. She hadn't had a single drink, even though she had been listening to music at a local club. And she's certainly no criminal.
But some of her family members have had interactions with the law, and Ball is no fan of how the local criminal justice system operates. So her attitude as she crossed College Avenue heading west on 11th Street: "Hopefully, they'll just turn."