Case: Madison County Jail Inmates v. Thompson

1:79-cv-00675 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

Filed Date: Aug. 15, 1980

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Case Summary

In November of 1979, inmates at the Madison County (Indiana) Jail brought a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the county board of commissioners and the county sheriff, alleging that the conditions in the jail violated their constitutional rights. They were seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages. On February 15, 1980, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Judge William E. Steckler) entered judgment notwithstanding the ver…

In November of 1979, inmates at the Madison County (Indiana) Jail brought a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the county board of commissioners and the county sheriff, alleging that the conditions in the jail violated their constitutional rights. They were seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages. On February 15, 1980, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Judge William E. Steckler) entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the inmates. The court approved a consent decree describing the conditions of the jail. Among these conditions were lack of heating and ventilation, unsanitary living conditions, inoperative bathroom facilities, and cockroach infestation. The jail also lacked policies regarding inmate classification and inmates' right to communicate with outsiders, including attorneys. The jail was overcrowded and violent criminals could not be segregated and inmates could not be properly supervised. The consent decree ordered the construction of a new facility and interim improvements in the existing facility. A jury had awarded the inmates significant damages and the district court, in entering its judgment, reduced that to nominal damages. The opinion from the district court is not available.

On May 9, 1980, following the death of an inmate, plaintiffs filed a petition requesting that the court determine whether the defendants were in compliance with the consent decree. In June of 1981, the district court found that although the defendants were not strictly complying with the decree, they were acting in good faith. In a later pre-trial conference, it was agreed that the class would be closed as of the June 1981 date. In a subsequent trial in November of 1983, a jury found that the jail did not meet minimum constitutional standards for some of the period after the consent decree was issued. The jury awarded damages in excess of half a million dollars. The district court again reduced the amount to nominal damages in a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, noting that plaintiffs cannot recover monetary damages for violations of constitutional rights in the absence of proof of actual harm.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Senior District Judge Jameson) affirmed the reduction in damages because there was not sufficient evidence of actual harm to the inmates to support the jury's award. Madison County Jail Inmates v. Thompson, 773 F.2d 834 (7th Cir. 1985).

Summary Authors

Angela Heverling (3/6/2006)

People


Judge(s)

Jameson, William James (Montana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sutherlin, Michael K. (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Terrell, Stephen M. (Indiana)

Judge(s)

Jameson, William James (Montana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sutherlin, Michael K. (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Terrell, Stephen M. (Indiana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

84-01677

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

773 F.2d 834

Oct. 7, 1985

Oct. 7, 1985

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 23, 2022, 3:08 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Indiana

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 15, 1980

Case Ongoing: Perhaps, but long-dormant

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

inmates of the Madison County Jail in Indiana

Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Madison County Jail (Madison), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Equal Protection

Freedom of speech/association

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1980 - 1981

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Administrative segregation

Bathrooms

Classification / placement

Sanitation / living conditions

Totality of conditions

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Type of Facility:

Government-run