Jennings County pink jail cells

NORTH VERNON, Ind. (WDRB) -- From the outside, the Jennings County Jail looks pretty typical. But inside it's a little different.

"I mean when you walk in the door, you can see it glowing underneath cell doors," said Lt. Evan Ponsler with the Jennings County Jail. "And the next thing I know, the paint showed up, and I'm like you were being serious."

Inmates now spend their days in bright pink cells. It started with a recent jail inspection that the county failed, because the building needed to be painted.

"I said if you can find a color that's suitable, that's the most scientific color to calm people down. He said 'I'll do that'," said Jennings County Sheriff Kenny Freeman. "I thought it was a blue or something like that."

Instead, the jail commander picked Baker-Miller pink, a vibrant shade.

"I was like, 'I don't think we can have it this color.' And then I sat down in there, and I was like this is working! I feel better already," said Sheriff Freeman.

The idea itself is not new. Research dating back to the 1970's shows this particular shade of pink is physically soothing. According to psychologists, it's believed to help tranquilize feelings of anger and reduce hostile, violent or aggressive behavior. But beyond that, Sheriff Freeman hopes it deters inmates from returning.

"I don't know that it's a shaming, like I don't want to be in the pink room. I would think not. Just I don't want to be in jail anymore," said Sheriff Freeman.

It's part of his plan to reduce overcrowding. The jail currently has 124 beds and 162 inmates. In just five months on the job, Sheriff Freeman is determined to keep people from re-offending.

"What we have now is a housing project. What we want is a corrections project. So we're correcting people. That's the future," he said.

So far, four holding cells have been painted, but the jail plans to do more, depending on how inmates react. In addition to the paint job, the sheriff is also starting programs to get inmates on the right path as they walk out the door.

"If you do what you did, you'll get what you got. If you don't change things, you won't ever get a different result," said Sheriff Freeman.

Sheriff Freeman says if the pink cells are successful, he hopes to share the technique with other jails in the area.

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