Vigo County Jail problems could cost taxpayers big bucks

WTHI live shot for News 10 Midday at Vigo County Courthouse
WTHI live shot for News 10 Midday at Vigo County Courthouse

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – A federal lawsuit claims conditions at the Vigo County Jail are unconstitutional. Indianapolis attorney Michael Sutherlin filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of inmate Jauston Huerta last October. A hearing on a request for temporary injunction is set for Tuesday, January 17th.

Vigo County’s Council held an executive session along with the commissioners, Sheriff Greg Ewing, and their respective attorneys. The purpose of the session was to review strategy the attorneys plan to employ in possibly resolving the lawsuit before Tuesday’s hearing.

“The county is willing to acknowledge the jail that is there now is not sufficient to house the number of people the courts order the sheriff to detain on a daily basis,” said county attorney Michael Wright.

If the federal judge orders a temporary injunction in this case, the judge could also order the jail be shut down and the inmates inside would have to be moved to other facilities. That comes at a cost of $35 per inmate per day. If 250 inmates are moved, that would cost Vigo County taxpayers $8750 per day. That’s a staggering cost county attorneys hope to avoid by negotiating a settlement with Sutherlin and his client.

“We have been in discussion with Mr. Sutherlin about some language that a new jail facility is necessary to bring about a better situation for everybody,” said Wright.

Two county commissioners and Wright told News 10 no decisions regarding a new jail were made, not on location or on funding. But local leaders are on notice as to what’s at stake.

Sutherlin told News 10 by phone if an agreement is reached before Tuesday’s hearing, he wants it in writing. That will add a extra layer of accountability to Vigo County leaders.