INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana police agencies’ strict policies on visitations for hospitalized inmates are drawing fire from families of two offenders, one of whom died before his relatives could say goodbye.
But experts say security concerns usually trump the families’ desire to see their loved ones and that neither the hospitals nor the police agencies are violating the inmates’ rights by barring visits.
“Basically, visitation is a privilege; it’s not a right,” Brad Brockmann, executive director of the Rhode Island-based Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, told The Indianapolis Star.
The Indiana cases that have drawn families’ ire involve Timothy Jackson, who was hospitalized for more than 10 days after he was shot Dec. 22, and Major Davis Jr., who was shot in a July 5 gun battle that killed Indianapolis police Officer Perry Renn.
Jackson, 53, of Nashville, Tennessee, was hospitalized after being shot during an attempted robbery of an armored truck in an Indianapolis Wal-Mart’s parking lot, authorities said. His family was not allowed to see him, and he died at Eskenazi Hospital on Jan. 2. His family was notified two hours later.
“We didn’t feel it was right,” said Jimmy Jackson, the oldest of three brothers. “We never got to tell him that we were thinking of him, praying for him. If someone is dying in the hospital, a family should be able to see them regardless.”
In Davis’s case, an online petition with nearly 1,800 signatures urged authorities to allow his mother to visit Davis while he was hospitalized. He was released Monday and taken to the Marion County Jail.
Many detention facilities don’t notify families that inmates are hospitalized, while others allow visits under certain circumstances.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office allows visitations only if inmates are near death, have been hospitalized for 30 days or more or if a court order exists.
Hamilton County typically bars hospital visitations, said Capt. Jason Sloderback, Hamilton County Jail commander.
Hendricks County has a more lenient policy. Family members of critically ill or injured inmates are allowed as long as security measures are followed and the inmates are stable enough for a visit, said Maj. Harold Gibson, commander of the Hendricks County Jail.
But visitors are subject to searches, and their time with the inmate is limited to 30 minutes with an armed officer present.
Police officials say security concerns justify the strict rules and note that hospitals lack the infrastructure of a detention facility.
“We don’t want anything to go bad, so why put yourself in a situation where it might?” Sloderback said. “At the end of the day, we’re just trying to provide safety and security for everybody involved.”
Indianapolis attorney Bradley Keffer said an attorney representing an inmate can request a court order to allow the family’s visit. Families also can accuse the detention center of emotional distress or violating a person’s freedom of association.
Those cases are rare, Keffer said, because courts typically give broad discretion to county sheriffs and prisons on security matters.
“If there’s any issue between security and the right of an individual, security tends to win,” he said.