Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 1990

LAWSUITS PRESS NEW JAIL ISSUE AS BOND ELECTION APPROACHES

October 23, 1990

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— As the Jefferson County Sheriff's department campaigns for voter approval of a bond issue, it also faces lawsuits regarding the living conditions in the current jail.

Of the three lawsuits filed by former inmates of the Jefferson County Jail, one has been dismissed and another was dismissed and later reopened.

The suits were filed in federal court in July by Victor J. Smith and David D. Mitchell, both of Lawrence, and Melvin C. Howard, Kansas City, Kan., who claimed their civil rights had been violated while serving time in the jail.

On Aug. 14, Howard asked the U.S. District Court to dismiss the case, and about a week later submitted a motion for reconsideration. The case was reopened on Aug. 21. Mitchell's case was dismissed on Sept. 26.

Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway is named as a defendant in both suits, and jail administrator Jeff Herrig is named as a defendant in Smith's suit.

THE MEN allege that trash and garbage are allowed to accumulate in jail cells and hallways, dirt and scum have built up in the showers and on the floors, inmates are made to use disposable razors used by other inmates, the jail is excessively hot and has inadequate ventilation, cells are too small, inmates are not allowed to exercise or to have law books, and meals are cold and not nutritious.

The lawsuits come as the county faces a $3.5 million bond election to finance a new jail and law enforcement center.

County voters also will vote on a 1 percent sales tax, which would be sufficient to retire the general obligation bonds within 20 years. If voters approve the sales tax, no property tax would be assessed to fund the project.

THE NEW facility would include a 35-bed jail and would house the county sheriff's, emergency preparedness and ambulance departments. The proposed site is a 20-acre tract at the southern edge of Oskaloosa, on the west side of U.S. Highway 59.

The current county jail was completed in 1931 and was intended to house a sheriff, undersheriff and 13 beds. Today, the sheriff's department has grown to about 25 employees and county officials say the jail suffers from overcrowding.

The sheriff's department has scheduled several public meetings to explain the proposal. They will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Meridan Grade School; Oct. 29 at the Winchester Community Building; Oct. 30 at Perry High School; and Nov. 1 in the Oskaloosa High School multi-purpose room.

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