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Indiana Awards $425K To Convicted Killer Subjected To 4 Years In 'Ghastly' Solitary Confinement
Inmate Jay Vermillion described inhaling Mace fumes and being surrounded by screaming, suicidal inmates in a "concrete tomb" at the Westville supermax facility.
A convicted murderer in Indiana who was subjected to "horrid" conditions in solitary confinement at a supermax facility for four years has been awarded a $425,000 settlement by the state.
Jay Vermillion, 59, claims he was “retaliated against” by the state of Indiana when prison officials transferred him from Indiana State Prison in Michigan City to solitary in the supermax Westville Correctional Facility.
Vermillion spent 1,513 days — 23 to 24 hours each — isolated in “a solid concrete tomb with a solid steel door,” according to a federal lawsuit he filed in 2015.
“His life was misery,” attorney Locke Bowman told Oxygen.com.
And while his client is "glad the litigation is behind him" and approves of the settlement, Vermillion will never fully recover from those four years in solitary, he added.
“He feels there’s no amount of money that could adequately compensate him for what he went through,” Bowman said.
In a handwritten note attached to the original complaint, Vermillion described feeling traumatized in isolation. He also wrote that it hindered his relationship with his only child, whom he fondly called “my little Schnookums.”
"I cannot find the words to describe the significance of the relationship I had with the only living creature that ever loved me back, and I cannot begin to describe how the next 28 years are going to be without her."
During the transfer to Westville, Vermillion lost his $219 television set and many possessions, including key legal documents he claims he was preparing as a “burden of proof” to seek a new trial, the inmate wrote.
Vermillion claims he was transferred to the high-security facility because he was suspected of having knowledge of a prison break at Indiana State Prison on July 12, 2009. Three inmates that were “circumstantially associated” with Vermillion snuck out of the institution but were quickly caught and returned, the complaint states.
Afterward, investigators accused Vermillion of being in on the escape plans, and then brought false “trafficking” tobacco and cell phone charges against him, according to his complaint.
A month later, Vermillion was ordered to 1,513 days in the higher-security Westville Correctional Facility — which he dubbed the "Looney Bin.” The facility is where “all of the psychotic, out-of-control, and unmanageable worst-of-the-worst are kept in ‘cold storage’ to induce dormancy,” he wrote in the complaint.
Vermillion, who is serving time for murder, car theft and dealing in a sawed-off shotgun, claims he was unjustly shuttled to the higher level prison's solitary unit.
A spokesman for the state’s department of corrections said that offenders are not housed in solitary confinement, but "restricted housing assignment classification."
Inmates housed in isolation are apparently given a review "each 30 days" along with a yearly "classification review" to ensure that the confinement is appropriate, the spokesman told The Indy Star.
Vermillion's description of solitary at Westville was grim.
Despite the lack of interaction with the rest of the prison population, Vermillion claimed he was living in bleak conditions. He said he had to inhale Mace fumes, live next to suicidal neighbors, eat cold meals and suffer “humiliating strip-searches,” the complaint states.
“You go back in that area and people are screaming, banging on the doors and the smells are quite horrid,” Bowman said. “It was a ghastly four years and the state of Indiana knows it; and that’s why they agreed to pay this money.”
He said that the state didn’t want to roll the dice with a trial, wherein a jury would be able to “make their own judgments about the magnitude of harm that was inflicted on a person living in these circumstances for more than 1,500 days.”
Vermillion is currently being housed at the Pendleton Correctional Facility — approximately an hour's drive from Indianapolis.
Vermillion is not set to be released until 2036, jail records show.
As for the settlement money, Bowman said it will be held in a trust.
“He doesn’t have many opportunities to spend it,” said Bowman. “But it’s his money.”