Settlement reached in lawsuit against Lake County jail
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org December 14, 2012 12:35PM
Updated: January 16, 2013 6:07AM
Lake County will close another dark chapter of its jail woes after a federal judge Friday approved a $7.2 million payment to former inmates who are members of a class-action lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon approved the settlement request, which means about 8,000 former inmates will split the money.
How much money members receive depends on how many days they were held in the intake center, with one point being given for up to two days and 12 points for anyone held longer than 10 days.
The lawsuit, filed in 2008 in U.S. District Court in Hammond by seven former inmates, claimed they were held in unhealthy conditions at the jail, including not having access to hygiene products and having to sleep on urine on the floor because toilets were broken.
The suit also claimed inmates had to fight for food, weren’t given time to exercise and were kept in the intake center longer they were supposed to stay.
Simon granted class-action status in 2010, and anyone who was held in the intake holding cell for more than 24 hours from May 2006 to February could apply. About 25,000 people received notices of claim, Michael Kanovitz, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said. Although some forms are still coming in, about 8,000 with valid claims have returned the notices, he said. Return of the notices had to be postmarked by Dec. 3.
“We’re incredibly pleased for the class, because it represents a settlement that provides meaningful compensation for people who were treated inhumanely and deserved better,” Kanovitz said.
He said the lawsuit has also helped to spur improvements at the jail. Lake County has since entered a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice requiring numerous changes that had to be made at the jail. The DOJ has recently said the jail is now in compliance with all of the areas cited.
The proposed settlement was announced this summer, and class members were then given time to object. Just four sent objections to the court.