Recent news events concerning the death of a woman arrested for owi raise the concerns of those attorneys such as myself as to the conditions within the arrest processing center and other jails within Indiana.
As part of former civil rights lawsuits and a consultant on police conduct related to deliberate indifference actions under federal 1983 laws, I am no stranger to the reality of police misconduct that has lead to either death or injury to those subject to a police arrest.
With widespread budgetary cutbacks within local municipalities, the cause of inmate protection is not high on the agenda of most politically elected policy makers throughout the state of Indiana. Unfortunately, it is not until someone who has been arrested or jailed has died within law enforcement custody that light is shined on this all important issue.
The woman in question was a forty eight year old mother of two college aged children who allegedly suffered alcohol convulsions within the Marion County Jail just prior to her death while in police custody. Of particular note is the fact that the woman’s death should not have been a wake up call to the jail as it was the second death potentially stemming from unattended confinement related to alcohol impairment within a two week period.
In neither case were the decedents taken to a hospital in an effort to save their respective lives. Based upon the sheriff’s recently enacted cost cutting policy measures, arresting officers are being told to book those severely impaired from alcohol or drugs directly into the jail as opposed to former policy to take them to a nearby hospital.
Ironically, it has been firmly alleged that such policy measures have been the bi product of attempts to streamline the budget expenditures related to law enforcement and arrest procedure. I suppose it is always a politically expedient move to suggest that arrests are being made while expenditures to the tax paying public are going down.
I would suggest that in my capacity as a dui lawyer in Indianapolis Indiana, such policy directives can be short sighted as the long term consequences of potential civil litigation against local law enforcement entities “deliberately indifferent” (a standard of proof necessary to be proven within a federal court of law such to be awarded compensatory and or punitive damages against a governmental entity) to the safety of those who have been arrested for alcohol impairment. As a result of the potential for civil actions related to the ill conceived results of such short sighted policies, local municipalities and potentially the taxpaying public may be on the receiving end of excessive monetary awards for wrongful death.
If morality and ethics is not sufficient to promote the safety of those arrested and confined who are suffering from alcohol impairment, the prospect of civil litigation might eventually become the wake up call that will ultimately gain the attention of the policy makers responsible for the conditions within Indiana’s jail facilities; conditions that may ultimately prove fatal to an arrestee’s well being.
I urge all responsible local law enforcement leaders responsible for the oversight of all inmate facilities to take heed of internal practices now so as to prevent the monetary cost of litigation and the emotional cost of contributing to an arrestee’s death.