Vanderburgh County Inmate Speaks on Overcrowding, Deteriorating Walls, and Lack of Programs

This post is the first in a series investigating conditions in the Vanderburgh County Detention Center from the perspective of people incarcerated there. Posts will be compiled here

In January, Vanderburgh County Detention Center inmate Jacqueline Neugebohrn wrote to a Where the River Frowns contributor about conditions in the county jail and her experience there. Jacqueline has been held in the jail for over a year–since January 11, 2017.Her letter comes a few months after the Vanderburgh County Detention Center was cited for six violations of Indiana Code:

  • The jail is overcrowded and the number of inmates exceeds the rated capacity of the jail.
  • Not all inmates have “access to a bed.”
  • There are not at least 1 shower and 1 toilet per 12 inmates.
  • There are not at least 35 square feet per inmate in cells and 50 square feet per inmate in dorms.
  • There is not a proper system to house inmates with special needs.
  • The jail is “severely” understaffed.

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Letter from IDOC states six code violations at the Vanderburgh County Detention Center.

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Letter from IDOC following jail inspection gives 180 days to develop a plan of compliance.

​Vanderburgh County is not alone in its overcrowding issue. The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code published a report in October 2017, which found that 44 of 91 county jails in Indiana are overcrowded.​Although reporters throughout the state have interviewed sheriffs, lawmakers and other authorities, the views of inmates on their conditions of confinement have been ignored. A Where the River Frowns contributor wrote to inmates asking them to share their side of the story.

In her letter dated January 9, 2018, Jacqueline Neugebohrn talks about her struggle with addiction and mental illness and the lack of programming to prepare her for re-entry. She states, “There is nothing here to help me. When I get out I’m going to be homeless so I’ll most likely use again. Out of 10, only 1 or 2 girls won’t be back in jail. It’s sad but true.”

Jacqueline also describes the deteriorating building she is housed in and the “boats” used in place of beds. She touches on how female inmates are treated and laments they only get one pair of bras and panties. Her letter is reproduced in full below.

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The jail forces some inmates to sleep on these “boats” (plastic cots on the floor) which do not meet the state’s definition of “bed,” which must be 12 inches off the ground, November 2, 2017 (photo: Courier and Press)

Jan 9th 2018​

Hello Liz,I would like to say this is amazing what you are doing. My name is Jaqueline Neugebohrn. I am 22. I’m an inmate at VCJ like you already know. I have been here at VCJ since Jan. 11, 2017. I have been here so long because of my citizenship issue. My case is very different.

I’m in a 8-man cell (8 beds). Since it’s so crowded they have 2 boats in each 8-man cell making it a 10-man cell (10 beds). There is no room to be walking around; the boats are in the way of either the shower or table. I have tripped over the boats so many times. And for our mats, no, they’re not all the same. There are 4 out of 10 girls whose mats are so thin it feels like you’re just laying on a metal bunk. Also in our day room they have 8 bunks (16 beds) which is a safety problem.

You brought up privacy, LOL, that’s not an option in jail.

Activities are okay if you are religious. There is Thinking for a Change (which you have to sign up for), Celebrate Recovery, church, and AA. (Those last three you don’t have to sign up for). There is a program going on every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Sometimes they don’t have room for all the ladies that would like to go to the programs. I personally feel like there should be other programs like GED, parenting class, NA, and other programs except religious.

What I dislike is medical and how girls struggle to get proper treatment.

I dislike the way the guards have teamed up on inmates. I seen a male guard restrain a lady who was already handcuffed, knocked her head on the ground and throw her into a seizure. All that lady did was say something he didn’t like. He still has his job. I’ve seen a lot of crazy crap.

I also dislike how they handle ladies that have seizures and other serious issues.

I dislike the TV issues. There should be a TV in every 8-man cell.

I dislike how each lady only gets one pair of bras and panties. We should at least have 2 pair of panties since we have periods.

I dislike the lice outbreaks. They need to check all inmates when they first get booked in and treated.

I dislike how the guards treat the guys different than the ladies and not in a good way.

What I like, I mean okay, is I get three meals a day, a bed, and a shower. There isn’t anything I like about jail.

Also the walls are cracking and rocks are falling from the cracks, it’s making the top cell cave in. The crack is so big that we pass things through the cracks.

There has been brown recluses (spiders) and a lot of ants.

You asked if I could imagine a world without jails, prisons, and cops, yeah—it would be hell.

99.9% of people in jail are addicts and have mental issues. We need more mental health and addiction programs. Jails and prisons are NOT going to help with these problems; it’s only going to make it worse.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I have an addiction and mental health issues, but this jail doesn’t help people like myself. It’s easy to lock up a person but they can’t keep us forever.

I should be getting out this year. I’ll be out with no help or programs. The whole year at VCJ all I’ve done is read, write, and sleep. All I’ve learn is these guards are rude and a lot of them don’t care about anything but a paycheck.

​There is nothing here to help me. When I get out I’m going to be homeless so I’ll most likely use again. Out of 10, only 1 or 2 girls won’t be back in jail. It’s sad but true. There needs to be more after-jail and in-jail programs.

Jacqueline Neugebohrn ​

You don’t have to keep my response anonymous and if you have any more questions I’ll answer.


Where the River Frowns will publish additional letters from inmates at the Vanderburgh County Detention Center in the coming weeks and months. To submit your experiences at the VCDC, send an email to wheretheriverfrowns (at) riseup.net. Inmates can also write us, c/o Evansville Letters to Prisoners, PO Box 6263, Evansville, IN 47719. All submissions will be published anonymously unless the contributor requests otherwise.

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