Indiana court rules prison can take cash from inmate account


BUNKER HILL Ind. — The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled against an inmate who sued after money was withdrawn from his prison account to pay for the medical bills of a correctional officer he injured 30 years ago.

Aaron Isby’s complaint last year against the Indiana Department of Correction argued the agency didn’t have the constitutional authority to impose a restitution sanction without obtaining a civil judgment against him. A Miami County judge dismissed the case, citing an Indiana Supreme Court ruling IDOC’s actions weren’t subject to judicial review.

The appeals court, in a filing last month, upheld the dismissal.

“We are bound to follow the authority of the Indiana Supreme Court,” the appeals court noted.

Isby, in custody at Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, was first sentenced in 1988 for robbery, according to IDOC records. Court documents say that while in custody at another facility, Isby stabbed a guard in an altercation in 1990.

The IDOC imposed a sanction requiring him to pay over $8,000 in restitution for the guard’s medical expenses, according to the Kokomo Tribune.

The agency then started taking deposits made to Isby’s prison account and using they money toward restitution. The withdrawals continued after Isby was transferred to Miami Correctional.

The appeals court argued the IDOC may impose restitution as a disciplinary action. The court also said while state law governs and provides means for reviewing administrative agency actions, it exempts actions related to an offender within the agency’s jurisdiction.

Isby, who is 50 and also goes by Aaron Israel, represented himself in the case. In his May 2020 filing, he argued he had no “adequate remedy” as prison officials continued to deduct money from the fund comprised of “gifts from friends and family.”

His case has previously been in the spotlight because he spent more than a decade in solitary confinement and waged a lengthy legal battle alleging inhumane conditions. A federal court ruled in his favor in 2018.

Previous court records say during the October 1990 altercation, Isby struck a prison counselor, prompting correctional officers to enter his cell with dogs and tear gas in an attempt to transfer him elsewhere. Authorities alleged Isby wouldn’t comply and stabbed two guards, including one in the neck. Isby was convicted of attempted murder in 1992.

Isby has characterized it as a staged attack against him, according to a statement posted by advocacy group IDOC Watch.

A message left Sunday for an IDOC spokesman wasn’t immediately returned.

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