639 F. Supp. 244 (1986) | Cited 0 times | D. Rhode Island | May 12, 1986


PETTINE, Senior Judge.

At issue are the remedial orders promulgated by this Court on August 12, 1977 (hereinafter, "1977 Order") resulting from a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 consolidated class action brought by five prisoners confined in the Adult Correctional Institutions; they claimed, and the Court found, that the conditions of their confinement were unconstitutional. 1" The question is whether changed conditions of confinement and the subsequent United States Supreme Court cases of Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979) and Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981) mandate reconsideration of the aforesaid August 10, 1977 decree. 2"

In the nigh on to nine years that have elapsed since the publication of Palmigiano there has been an endless stream of motions and hearings; virtually all have concerned the state's failure to comply with the 1977 Order. The repetitive lament offered by the state was its inability to accomplish the ordered changes within the established time frames. And with patient confidence the Court bowed, with the same leitmotiv, continuing the matter to another day. This court was interested only in achieving the broad objective it had set rather than in imposing its preemptory power of contempt.

At a status conference held on September 25, 1984 the defendants, true to past practices, again requested that the then existing compliance and reporting deadlines be amended. Again the Court agreed. The defendants set their own dates; all existing remedial requirements were incorporated in what the Court fallaciously believed was the final order which would be satisfied within reasonable limits of the target dates. On November 19, 1984 the order issued. 3"

On July 22, 1985 the Special Master appointed by the Court filed his Findings and Recommendations. His report showed that the defendants were not in compliance with certain provisions of the November 19, 1984 order. On September 17, 1985 another status conference was called. The Court determined that an evidentiary hearing was necessary; on September 30, 1985 it set the matter down for hearing on December 16, 1985 stating:

The Court will take evidence on the current state of overcrowding and idleness at the Medium Security Facility, including its protective custody population, and the Intake Service Center and the impact of said conditions on the basic housing, health, environmental and safety standards which the defendants are required to meet under the prior orders of the Court.

Findings of Fact

a) Overcrowding

In the main the defendants do not controvert the essential facts nor do their experts take significant issue with those of the plaintiffs.

The prison population in the country, according to the National Institute of Justice, increased 94% from 1975 to 1980, due to population growth and sentencing practices; and it is widely accepted that crowding in prisons and jails can have negative consequences, such as riots. Rhode Island has not been immune from this phenomenon as will be seen from the facts and figures hereinafter set forth. Each section of the prison involved in this action, i.e. Medium Security and the Intake Service Center, will be treated separately.

1. Medium Security

The Medium Security section has five dormitories and two cell blocks. It is conceded that there is no overcrowding in these cell blocks. Its rated or design capacity, exclusive of 36 cells, is 186 per the 1977 Order, as against its actual population of 224. Total population, including the 36 cells, is 260 inmates. The actual population figure has varied as of certain dates: October 1, 1982 - 218; October 1, 1983 - 243; October 1, 1984 - 247; October 1, 1985 - 264. The briefs concede there is presently no appreciable variation from the 260 figure; the briefs were submitted in February 1986. The rated or design capacity of the Medium facility, as set at the time of construction, was subsequently increased by the 1977 Order, for which the court relied on the American Public Health Association (APHA) standards which require 75 square feet of space for each inmate in a dormitory. Now, in 1986, the defendants are housing an even greater number of inmates in the same amount of space. This changing capacity is reflected in the following chart: August 10 Population as Rated 1977 Order of Oct. 1/85 Dormitories --A Dorm (3424 sq. ft.) .38 .45 .43B Dorm (3424 sq. ft.) 38 45 72C Dorm (3424 sq. ft.) 38 45 49D Dorm (2278 sq. ft.) 16 30 32A Honor Dorm (1584 sq. ft.) 17 21 28 Total 147 186 224 Cellblocks -- CBS block (20 cells 42 sq. ft. each) 20 20 DCB block (16 cells 45 sq. ft. each) 16 16 Total 36 36 Grand Totals 222 260

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