Mary Litz became upset when her niece, an inmate at the Clay County Jail, called her concerning a problem that has the entire cell block itching to get out.
"They're infested with lice," Litz said. "It's a big problem."
Her niece, Brandi J. Moran, 24, has been jailed since Jan. 30. She was arrested by city police on charges of resisting law enforcement and driving while suspended. She had been wanted on a petition to revoke a suspended sentence.
Moran described large adult insects thriving in cell B, visibly making their rounds from head to head, laying eggs on the victims.
She thinks efforts by jail staff fall short in containing the situation in which her niece is trapped. She and other family members have attempted to take medicated shampoos to the jail only to have it rejected. Litz has even volunteered her own time to go in and help nit pick, the only way she said they can get a real handle on the problem.
Dispatcher Cindy Judd confirmed Wednesday that there are a couple of female inmates with lice, but denied allegations that the staff's efforts have been ineffective.
"As soon as (the staff) find it, they treat it -- because they don't want it either," Judd said.
After one incoming offender was booked with head lice, two people had it and were treated immediately since Litz's niece arrived at the jail, said Judd, who has worked at the jail for eight years. She says the problem isn't prevalent.
"It's not as common as I expected," Judd said. "We have an incidence of head lice maybe once a year, and had scabies a couple of times." She added that there is a standard procedure the jailers use when any contagious problem, such as lice, creeps up.
"All bedding and clothing gets washed and they use a lice shampoo with a special comb to get the nits out," Judd explained. "They get Lysol to use on the walls." She claims the efforts are very effective in containing the lice, but stressed the lice medication is only available from the jailers.
"When it was made more available in the past, the girls were using it daily, and that's not recommended," she said, adding that it's not safe in those doses. The shampoo is reapplied in seven days to ensure newly hatched insects are killed.
But Litz doesn't buy it. She said she understands the problem has been ongoing for months and the jail staff have taken away inmates' privileges whenever they complain. Her niece said the inmates spend hours trying to help each other get rid of it.
In hopes of getting more action on the issue, she said her family has contacted the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and the state board of health.
"I'll continue to complain until every egg is out of the girls' hair," Litz said. "We've got to get rid of it."
Sheriff Rob Carter and jail commander Robert Judd weren't available for comment on the situation Wednesday.