Department of Correction officials told a district court judge Wednesday they plan to remodel facilities at the Pendleton Correctional Facility to accommodate the more than 400 seriously mentally inmates throughout the state. Once the upgrades are made, they plans to transfer inmates from other state prisons, including the Wabash Valley and New Castle facilities.
After the DOC was accused last year of locking inmates with mental disabilities in solitary confinement for hours at a time, a district court judge mandated the department improve its treatment of those inmates.
Six months later, the judge and representatives from Indiana’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the Department of Correction was not clear in how they plan abiding by that ruling. Wednesday’s hearing was called so the DOC could outlines its plans and Judge Tanya Walton Pratt could determine if those plans satisfied the court’s requirements.
Deputy Attorney General Thomas Quigley, who is representing the DOC, declined to be interviewed, but during the hearing said the plans are on pace with the court’s orders, and stressed getting funding approval for facility renovations and training prison staff will take time.
Indiana ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk says his agency is pleased with the DOC’s plans, but emphasizes they need to be put into action quickly.
“Well I have concerns because the court found that the existing conditions in which the prisoners exist is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, is unconstitutional,” Falk says. “Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that there’s much that can be done about that until the new facilities are up and running.”
Pratt also praised the DOC’s efforts, but says she will have to see the new facilities before she determines whether the plans comply with the court ruling.