During the Vanderburgh County Jail Blue Ribbon Committee meeting on April 2, various groups and individuals spoke out against increasing the jail's capacity and continuing to criminalize and incarcerate people in the county.
A member of Evansville Letters to Prisoners (ELTP) pointed out racial and class disparities between the members of the jail committee and those they are incarcerating. The speaker highlighted ways in which the committee members spoke about prisoners, including referring to prisoners covering fluorescent lights above their beds while they slept as "vandalism." The ELTP representative read an excerpt from a letter from a local inmate and mentioned conversations with locals about the fluorescent lights at the Vanderburgh County jail and their strategies for dimming them. "People talk about taking stickers off deodorant, taping books up to the lights, and things like that, and I think that's a sign of resilience and creativity and how strong humans are, rather than just a problem of vandalism or people not being compliant...I think it makes a lot of sense that inmates wouldn't want a fluorescent light above their bed while they are trying to sleep."
Rather than fixing "little things" in increasing the capacity of the jail, the ELTP representative said now is an opportune time "to look to abolitionist strategies." "Abolition," according to the group Critical Resistance, is "a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment."
This post is the third in a series investigating conditions in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center from the perspective of people incarcerated there. Posts are compiled here.
In early January, prisoner David Hooker of Evansville, IN, traveled under the captivity of the Indiana Department of Corrections from the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City to the Vanderburgh County Confinement Center, a trip which led to panic attacks, sleeplessness, and bouts of claustrophobia.
During the 300-mile trip, David reports cramped quarters, bouncing around against a steel interior while handcuffed without a seatbelt, and becoming dizzy and nauseous. At one point, another inmate started crying. David wrote, "I talked to him for a while to forget our physical and mental torture but after a while the pain became too unbearable to speak further. While he cried, I put my head down and begged God to ease or stop our suffering. After 4 ½ hours nonstop, it was finally over."
On April 3 at the Vanderburgh County Jail Blue Ribbon Committee meeting, Sheriff Dave Wedding said that 95 Vanderburgh County inmates were housed outside of the county's facility that day, and that he hoped to transfer 80 more by the end of the week, bringing the total to about 170 Vanderburgh County inmates housed in 9 or 10 jails throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Each of these inmates will be transported at least twice--to and from the outside facility--but could also be transported at other times for court appearance or other reasons.
Although David Hooker is serving a sentence as a state prisoner under the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) rather than serving time as a Vanderburgh County inmate (he transferred briefly to Vanderburgh County for a court appearance), his story could give some insight into the abuse that is typical for inmates in Indiana who are transferred back and forth between facilities. Below is David Hooker's full account of his traumatic trip from a letter dated January 30, 2018.
My name is David Hooker and I was transported here in an ordinary appearing sheriff’s transport van. I was told by transport officer Deputy Riney that since trip is more than four hours there would be many stops to stretch, orientate and use restroom—esp. since I take blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetic medication which causes constant urination.
In a follow-up letter from March 28, 2018, David Hooker included this diagram of the van he and others were transported in. He explained, "At the back is a slant that prevents a prisoner from sitting up. You must stay bent forward. At every turn and stop you must brace yourself from being slammed into the walls," which are "mere inches away" from the inmates' heads.
This post is the second in a series investigating conditions in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center from the perspective of people incarcerated there. Posts are compiled here. Identifying details have been omitted to protect our sources when they wish to remain anonymous.
Julius (name changed) has been confined at the Vanderburgh County Detention Center for over 6 months. Because of a chronic medical condition, he stays in the medical unit--his complaints about which include staying in his cell for 24 hours a day, interacting with "overworked," "nasty," and "mean" correctional officers, paying fees for sick calls and medicine, and his grievances and complaints "fall[ing] on deaf ears."
Unlike most county jail detainees who are awaiting trial, Julius has already been sentenced. Sentences are typically served at state-run facilities, but people like Julius who are charged with level 6 felonies (the lowest level) serve their time in county jails. Julius has a 2.5-year sentence, half of which will be served in jail.
Julius mentions twice in his letter that the cost for a medical visit is $15 and prescriptions are an additional $15. The maximum co-pay at state prisons (according to Indiana Code 11-10-3-5) is $10; however, county facilities such the Vanderburgh County Detention Center set their own co-pay policies and do not have to follow this regulation (according to 210 Indiana Administrative Code 7-1-1). The higher cost is particularly unfair for prisoner like Julius, who would be paying less if he were serving his sentence in a state-run facility instead of a county one. Not only are those incarcerated in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center unable to earn money through underpaid prison labor as might be possible at a state-run facility, they also must pay more for medical care than prisoners in state facilities, which burdens their financial supporters on the outside.
In a follow-up letter dated February 16, 2018, Julius clarified that even for chronic conditions like his, inmates must pay for each prescription and sick call. This, too, contradicts the Indiana Administrative Code regarding IDOC prisoners, which states, "There shall be no co-payment for renewal of chronically prescribed medication following the initial prescription of the medication" (210 IAC 7-2-3). Again, county jails housing IDOC prisoners are not required to follow the regulation. Julius said he had been paying $70 per month for his prescriptions but is now paying $45.
Julius also offers an prisoner perspective on Vanderburgh County's push to remodel and/or expand the county jail. The jail, which is only 11 years old, is required to produce a plan to correct 6 code violations, including overcrowding, by late April. Julius says that prospective donors for a new medical portion of the jail are taken on tours through the unit. For their viewing pleasure and for the benefit of the jail, donors parade past "people that are sleeping in pain, in need of a real doctor, confined to this unit in despair."
His letter is reproduced in full below.
This post is the first in a series investigating conditions in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center from the perspective of people incarcerated there. Posts will be compiled here.
In January, Vanderburgh County Detention Center inmate Jacqueline Neugebohrn wrote to a Where the River Frowns contributor about conditions in the county jail and her experience there. Jacqueline has been held in the jail for over a year--since January 11, 2017.
Her letter comes a few months after the Vanderburgh County Detention Center was cited for six violations of Indiana Code:
You can also listen to Kite Line on WFHB Radio.
This week on Kite Line, we follow up on what’s happening nationally and internationally in regards to actions for the National Prison strike, both on the inside and outside. We talk to a supporter of Kara Wild, a US trans woman who is currently being held indefinitely in a French jail. We report on call-in requests from various prisoners who are asking for outside support, as well as hear about a “riot” in the jail near Evansville, Indiana. We read solidarity statements from Greece and Canada, and hear a bit about Henry Green, a 23 year old man in Columbus, Ohio, who was killed by the local police.
Kite Line is a radio program devoted to prison issues around the Midwest and beyond. Behind the prison walls, a message is called a kite: whispered words, a note passed hand to hand, or a request submitted to the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a kite means trusting that other people will bear it farther along till it reaches its destination. On the show, we hope to pass along words across the prison walls.
This is a list highlighting actions taken regionally in association with the September 9th nationwide prison strike. For a comprehensive, world-wide list of actions check out it It's Going Down's strike coverage.
Camera Cells: Tools of Retaliation and Psychological Torture at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
By Shaka Shakur, Indiana Prison Rebel
The Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana, which is also called the Secure Confinement Unit (SCU), is a 288 bed supermax control unit facility where prisoners are locked down 23 hours a day on both administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation status. The unit is comprised of 4 pods. Each pod is broken down into 4 ranges that each have 12 cells, divided by 2 tiers per range.
Inmates in Indiana’s jails have been tearing it up this month, with two rebellions in a week.
The first riot occurred on August 1st in Vanderburgh County Jail in Evansville where, according to the mainstream media, inmates refused to be handcuffed, flooded their jail cell, put soap on the floor to trip the guards when they entered and used bed bunks and mattresses as barricades and shields.
The second occurred in Henry County Jail on August 3rd and 4th where inmates set fire to mattresses and jail uniforms on two subsequent nights. The first fire was set by male inmates and the second, the next night, by female inmates. According to their captors, prisoners were attempting to deactivate the locks on their jail cell.
As usual, the mainstream media made no effort whatsoever to interview the inmates involved in the disturbances or to capture the potential reasons behind their rebellion. For now, we are unfortunately left wondering what may have caused these individuals to choose to fight back against their captors instead of keeping their heads down.
Evansville Courier & Press (IN) - August 28, 2009
Author/Byline: CHARLES WILSON, Associated Press Section: Metro Page: A9
INDIANAPOLIS - Juvenile justice experts said Thursday that the racial disparity in young offenders in Indiana is alarming and cited new data that show black youth are far more likely to be placed in detention centers than whites when arrested for similar offenses.
About 200 judges, social workers and other experts from Indiana and other states gathered in Indiana-
polis to discuss how to handle the state's racial disparities in the arrest and prosecution of juveniles. The meeting was an outgrowth of a state commission's report in October about youth services in the state.
Russ Skiba, director of the Equity Project at Indiana University, said preliminary figures based on 2008 data show that black youth were on average about three times as likely to be arrested than other races.
He also found that blacks were more likely to be detained for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct or violating probation than whites, and were much more likely to be sent to detention centers than white youth arrested for similar offenses.
His data showed that blacks overall were about twice as likely as other races to be detained and that blacks were more than six times as likely to be detained for drug offenses - even though they were arrested for such crimes less often than whites.