BUNKER HILL, Ind. — Six inmates kept in isolation at Miami Correctional Facility are suing the prison, alleging they were subjected to brutal and dangerous conditions, including living in total darkness for months and frequently being shocked from dangling live wires.
The lawsuits were filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of William Anderson, Charles Lyons, Anthony Parish, Jeremy Blanchard, Gerald Reed and Jeffrey Wagner.
In the grievances, the inmates said they were placed in isolation cells inside the restrictive housing unit, where prison officials had covered a broken outside window with sheet metal and never replaced or repaired the single light inside the cell.
The lawsuits assert that led to the inmates living in pitch-black conditions and being shocked by live wires that hung from the broken light fixture. The broken windows also caused cuts from the broken glass, as well as vulnerability to the extreme cold coming in from outside.
All the inmates argued the conditions inside the restrictive housing unit amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuits assert that prison officials were aware of these “inhumane and decrepit” conditions and yet failed to repair the hazards or mitigate the harm they were causing.
Reed alleged he was injured in one of the cells on March 1 when a 100-pound light fixture fell, striking him in the head. Nursing staff diagnosed him with a concussion, and he continues to have pain in his back, remains on medication and continues to have blurry vision, according to the complaint.
Wagoner said he was kept in nearly total darkness for around two months and was only released once every five days for a shower. While in the dark, he experienced increased anxiety and depression and had auditory hallucinations urging him to harm himself, according to the complaint.
“Placing a person in prolonged, isolated darkness for an extended period is a form of torture,” the lawsuit says.
Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said the the Eighth Amendment requires inmates must receive “minimal civilized measures of life’s necessities” that Miami Correctional failed to meet.
The lawsuits assert the prison continually ignored complaints about the living conditions in the cells or calls to make basic repairs, and prison officials violated the plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment rights.
“Imagine being trapped in a small dark room where you were subject to being shocked by live electrical wires every time you attempted to move,” Falk said in a release. “We wouldn’t tolerate animals being held in such horrifying conditions, how can we tolerate them for people?”
Prison officials did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.
The lawsuit comes after the Indiana Court of Appeals last week ruled against four Miami Correctional Facility inmates who say the prison committed double jeopardy by placing them in solitary confinement.
The inmates argued being placed in restrictive housing for battering a public safety officer was a form of punishment, and criminal charges filed against them should be dismissed due to double jeopardy, which bars being punished twice for the same crime.
The inmates all said living in restrictive housing made them depressed, anxious and, in some cases, suicidal. One inmate said, “we’re not treated like we’re human beings” while living in confinement.
“It’s clearly a discipline,” one inmate said in his argument. “It’s clearly a punishment.”
The appeals court ruled solitary confinement wasn’t a criminal punishment, but rather an administrative punishment, and did not dismiss the criminal charges against them.