Lawyer proposes releasing certain inmates out of Vanderburgh Co. Jail to reduce coronavirus cases

Coronavirus Watch Indiana

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) Jails across the Tri-State have been adjusting to coronavirus with changes to visitations and other rules.

Now, a prominent Evansville lawyer wants Vanderburgh County to release certain inmates to prevent an outbreak.

Scott Danks of the law firm Danks and Danks posted on Facebook that those who aren’t serving a felony sentence or have a bond of less than $2,500 should be let out of Vanderburgh County Jail with a court date in the next two months. But Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding questions his proposal and his claims.

“We’re going to have a lot of sick people there, a lot of deaths there, unnecessarily,” said Danks.

He posted that no one should be subject to the possibility of critical illness or death due to a minor offense or their inability to pay for bail. He adds not every inmate at the jail is a risk to community safety.

“A lot of them are there because of contempt of court for minor things such as failure to complete community service and that type of thing. I think there’s a very significant number that are being held on bond less than $2,500,” Danks said. He also says it’d allow the jail to have more room to keep sick inmates separate from the rest of the population and for future testing of inmates for coronavirus.

“I think he’s challenging the judges and the prosecutors authority and I don’t know if he has the authority to do that,” says Sheriff Wedding. He adds enough steps are taken if an inmate gets sick or show symptoms of any illness, including a medical wing and nurses and doctors on staff. He also says while some who are arrested are out within 24 hours, others are in jail because of their criminal history or risk to the community.

“As sheriff, we want to balance out who we arrest and we let the judicial authorities determine upon the arrest if that person should remain incarcerated based on their criminal history and based on the felony they committed,” says Sheriff Wedding.

“We have excellent judges here in Vanderburgh County. I’m confident that they take the situation seriously. Hopefully, something will be done and something will be done sooner,” countered Danks.

As for keeping jailers safe, Sheriff Wedding says they’ve met with health care providers — have rules on how to handle inmates who become ill, and are watching for changes on how coronavirus affects the jail.

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(This story was originally published on March 18, 2020)

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