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An opioid epidemic. High smoking rates. Health care provider shortages. Indiana faces serious public health challenges. Side Effects Public Media provides in-depth coverage of these issues and more.

State To Conduct "Comprehensive Review" Of Indiana Women's Prison

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Jake Harper | Side Effects
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The Indiana Department of Correction will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the Indiana Women’s Prison, according to an email sent to staff on Friday. 

The department will examine the facility’s “operations, programs, treatment services, maintenance and situational readiness.” The email says the decision to conduct the review follows complaints about the prison over the past couple of years. 

The women’s prison has been the subject of several Side Effects stories during the pandemic, which included information from inmates and their relatives, as well as advocates and employees. 

Last summer, the prison kept women locked in their cells, which have no toilets, running water or air conditioning. The administration unlocked cell doors after the conditions were widely reported in local media.

Current and former employees told Side Effects they felt pressured to treat women inside harshly, that the staff culture was fueling turnover and that the prison was not doing enough to prevent COVID-19.

Warden Laurie Johnson is currently on leave with an unknown return date. Meanwhile, the facility will be managed by Virginia Sampson, currently a deputy warden. 

Department spokesperson Annie Goeller declined to be interviewed or answer emailed questions about the review. “We have no comment, and we do not discuss personnel matters,” she wrote in an email. 

The email says the review will be led by Julie Stout, warden of the Rockville Correctional Facility, another state women’s prison.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health. Jake Harper can be reached at jharper@wfyi.org. He's on Twitter @jkhrpr.