April 26, 2003 Indianapolis Star

2 Shackles Are Safer Than One

April 26, 2003
After recent escape, sheriff ordered change for prisoners escorted to City-County Building

By John Tuohy


Prisoners being escorted to court in the City-County Building have a little less elbow room than they once enjoyed.

Sheriff Frank Anderson has ordered both hands of prisoners shackled when they are taken from the Marion County Jail. Under former Sheriff Jack Cottey, prisoners had one hand cuffed to a chain and one hand free when deputies walked a line of inmates to court.

But Anderson, a former deputy U.S. marshal in charge of transporting federal prisoners, changed the practice two weeks ago.

"He has a lot of expertise in this area and said that was a bad plan," said Sheriff's Capt. George Hughes, commander of public services.

About 250 to 400 prisoners are walked every day from the jail through a tunnel under Washington Street to City-County Building courtrooms. More than 3,000 people work in the building, and thousands more visit daily.

Sheriff's Col. Kerry Forestal said the first time Anderson saw prisoners strolling through the corridors, side by side with civilians, he said, "This is ridiculous."

"And he's right," Forestal said. "It looks like a teacher and a student walking through the park holding hands."

Deputies now shackle five prisoners to a chain with five pairs of handcuffs, instead of 10 prisoners to a chain with five pairs, Hughes said. The sheriff will order four more five-cuff chains at $125 each.

Forestal said the measure should improve safety for the public and guards alike.

The escape of a shackled prisoner from a police van last month convinced Anderson more security was needed. Before the escape, he had ordered $8,000 worth of handcuffs, leg irons and belly chains. The escaped prisoner removed his belly chain using a key he obtained from an unknown source.

John Kieffner, a deputy prosecuting attorney assigned to Superior Court Room 3, said the new security measure is welcome.

"Anybody who works in this building would support anything that makes it more secure," he said. When prisoners had only one hand cuffed, workers "had to be aware of where the prisoners were at all times."

John Maley, vice chairman of the Justice Task Force for the Indianapolis Bar Association, said he was pleased to hear of the new policy. "It's a dangerous place," he said of the City-County Building.

Ken Falk, legal director for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which continues to champion a 30-year-old lawsuit against the county for alleged inhumane treatment of prisoners, said he has no problem with double shackles for prisoners.

"I don't think anyone would say increasing safety is cruel or unusual treatment of prisoners," Falk said.

Hughes said he hasn't heard any grumbling from prisoners, but even if he did, "We're not going to pay attention if all they're griping about is handcuffs."