Class-action lawsuit filed after additional inmates allege abuse, torture at Floyd Co. Jail

Published: Jun. 13, 2014 at 10:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2014 at 10:45 PM EDT
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Video shows Tabitha Gentry being stripped of her clothes and placed in a padded cell for hours...
Video shows Tabitha Gentry being stripped of her clothes and placed in a padded cell for hours at the Floyd County Jail.
Laura Landenwich (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Laura Landenwich (Source: WAVE 3 News)

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – New allegations of abuse and mistreatment at a southern Indiana jail have surfaced, prompting the filing of a class-action lawsuit in federal court.

On June 6, WAVE 3 News reported that a female inmate named Tabitha Gentry was stripped naked and tossed into an isolated holding cell for hours at the Floyd County Jail in late March.

A total of four plaintiffs are listed in the federal lawsuit, but civil rights attorney Laura Landenwich said she has taken calls from several other people reporting similar stories about their time at the same jail.

"I want the policy to stop," said Landenwich. "I don't want a single other victim to be humiliated and tortured like this."

Landenwich filed a 19 page class-action lawsuit detailing four inmates' experiences at the Floyd County Jail. Landenwich said the constitutional rights of Gentry, Vincent Minton, Michael Herron and Adam Walker were violated.

"It was not just these women, but also men that were being stripped in front of female officers and men that were forced to urinate into a drain in the ground," said Landenwich. "They had been tazed, physically assaulted as a part of this process."

All four people were booked for alcohol-related misdemeanors.

"They are not hardened criminals. They are not felons. They are not violent," said Landenwich. "At worst, they had too much to drink one night."

Video of the jail obtained from Landenwich shows Gentry stripped of her clothing and put in a padded cell for hours. Landenwich has requested video from the jail when the other plaintiffs were there.

Floyd County Sheriff Darrell Mills said on June 6 that strip-searching inmates is not a standard policy of his department, but there are guidelines when it is allowed.

Mills said female or male inmates will be put in a padded cell if they are acting combative, if they could possibly harm themselves or if they are highly intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. While in a padded cell, there is a standard smock that is issued to all inmates.

"That might be the sheriff's policy, and it might be that these jailers didn't violate the policy in that jail, but that jail is violating not only international norms for how you treat prisoners, but these are American citizens on American soil and they have constitutional protections," said Landenwich.

The lawsuit goes after Floyd County Commissioner Mark Seabrook, Sheriff Darrell Mills, and the officers involved.

An attorney for the Floyd County Jail said that because it is pending litigation, he will not comment on the matter.

A similar allegation against the Floyd County Jail was made last year by Gentry's cousin. A lawsuit was also filed by Landenwich in that case, which Mills said was settled. Details of the settlement are not known.

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