BUNKER HILL — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed lawsuits on behalf of six inmates who they say were kept in isolation and subjected to "brutal and dangerous conditions that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment."
The six lawsuits name Warden William Hyatte and Deputy Warden George Payne Jr as defendants.
All six men were in the restrictive housing unit, where prisoners are placed as the result of disciplinary sanctions or for administrative purposes. The lawsuit says prisoners in restrictive housing spend all their time in their cells, except when they are released for a shower or solitary recreation.
Each lawsuit alleges cell windows had a piece of sheet metal over them that did not let in light. Others allege they were cut by broken glass inside their cells or shocked by live electrical wires hung from the ceiling.
"For the first two weeks that he was in the cell, Mr. Parish did not have a television or tablet and had nothing that could generate light. It was pitch dark," the lawsuit filed on Anthony Parish's behalf said. "After two weeks he did receive his television and tablet. But the light that they gave off was inadequate to illuminate the cell, which remained dark at all times ... Being in the dark for that length of time caused him to have a great deal of anxiety from which he still suffers."
Another inmate, Jeremy Blanchard, was in a cell with the sheet metal cover and a broken light, which the lawsuit says left him in near-total darkness for more than a month aside from when he was let out for a shower.
"At all relevant times defendants were aware that many of the restrictive housing cells had broken windows and no operable light source. Yet, these obvious problems were not remedied," the lawsuit reads. "Defendants’ solution to the broken windows was not to replace the windows, but to cover the windows with sheet metal so that no light came through the windows... Placing a person in prolonged, isolated darkness for an extended period is a form of torture."
The lawsuit filed on behalf of inmate Gerald Reed says he was hit in the head by a broken light fixture, "causing painful injuries from which he continues to suffer."
“The Eighth Amendment requires that incarcerated people must receive the minimal civilized measures of life’s necessities — a baseline standard that officials at Miami Correctional Facility are consistently failing to meet,” said Kenneth J. Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana.
WRTV reached out to the Indiana Department of Corrections, who said it does not comment on pending litigation.