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Revised Indiana Jail Standards Emphasize Local Control

Indiana’s jails have phased out a set of standards that was two decades old.

The revised standards include rules about the physical structure of jails, from the location of toilets in recreation areas to the amount of natural light required in holding cells.

Photo: Indiana Public Media News

The revised standards include rules about the physical structure of jails, from the location of toilets in recreation areas to the amount of natural light required in holding cells.

The Department of Corrections and the Indiana Sheriff’s Association revised state jail code this month, and Governor Mitch Daniels is expected to approve the changes this week.

Corrections officials say the new jail standards focus on protecting sheriffs from legal action.

Indiana’s criminal justice system has changed since the 1980s—the last time the Department of Corrections updated its jail standards. But one fact remains the same—sheriffs are in charge of making daily decisions about how to operate a jail.

The new standards emphasize that point. IDOC Jail inspector Kenneth Whipker says the department has removed language that was too specific and made jails targets of lawsuits. One example is the definition of feminine products for female inmates.

“If it says tampon, that is what the jail would provide,” he says. “Well, what happens from a feminine hygiene perspective, the lady in question does not want a tampon, she would prefer to have a pad or something else. From a standards perspective, you could say, well, the standard says I have to give you a tampon, take it or leave it.”

Whipker says, instead, the new language allows jails to decide at a local level what they wish to provide.

Corrections officials also added rules about the physical structure of jails, from the location of toilets in recreation areas to the amount of natural light required in holding cells.

Indiana Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Steve Luce helped draft the changes. He says he thinks the new standards will prevent inmate complaints and lawsuits from occurring in the first place.

“We were also looking out for local government units as far as liability, litigation, to make sure that we are consistent with our court rulings and that we work with the ACLU to where there’s not as much litigation filed,” he says.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is still reviewing the document and officials declined comment for this story.

Julie Rawe

Julie is Assistant Producer of Noon Edition. In addition to reporting for WFIU, she also works as an intern for NPR's State of the Re:Union. She is a graduate of Indiana University where she studied French, anthropology, and African studies.

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