Attorney General Curtis Hill is opposing efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union to bring about the release of inmates held in Indiana jails and prisons amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a petition filed March 30, the ACLU declared that the Indiana Supreme Court should engage in “emergency rulemaking” in order to enable certain inmates to leave correctional facilities and “shelter at home” during the current public health emergency.
This week, Attorney General Hill filed a memorandum with the court opposing the ACLU’s position.
“The ACLU’s unprecedented request for the court to assume the power to manage prisons and jails is constitutionally and procedurally improper,” Attorney General Hill said. “Administration of the Indiana Department of Correction and Indiana’s prisons belongs in the executive branch of state government.”
The Indiana Constitution expressly recognizes the separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, Attorney General Hill noted, and stipulates that “no person, charged with official duties under one of these departments, shall exercise any of the functions of another.”
On a practical level, Attorney General Hill added, the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) has remained vigilant during the pandemic. The agency, he said, has closely followed guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“IDOC has for several weeks adopted policies, protocols and practices designed to ameliorate the risks of COVID-19 in Indiana prisons,” Attorney General Hill said. “Particularly given existing procedures to address individual cases, the court has no urgent need to take action that may destabilize these undertakings.”