LYONS v. GILLIGAN Civ. A. No. C 74-271.
382 F.Supp. 198 (1974)
Michael LYONS et al., Plaintiffs, v. John J. GILLIGAN, Individually and in his capacity as Governor of the State of Ohio, et al., Defendants.
United States District Court, N. D. Ohio, E. D.
September 9, 1974.
Richard B. Igo, Asst. Atty. Gen., Columbus, Ohio, for defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM K. THOMAS, District Judge.
Plaintiffs, two inmates of the Marion Correctional Institution of Marion, Ohio, and their wives, bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1970) against various state officials on the theory that the absence of the opportunity for conjugal visits at the institution denies the plaintiffs their constitutional right of privacy and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The truth of the facts hereafter set forth is accepted as alleged in the complaint for purposes of considering defendants' motion.
Since October, 1972 plaintiff Michael Lyons has been serving a one- to seven-year sentence for stealing auto parts; plaintiff Donald Richards began a five-to 30-year sentence following a conviction for burglary and larceny in March, 1973. Both were married while they were inmates in the Cuyahoga County Jail. They allege that before their commitment to county jail they had been living with their prospective spouses, and each couple had held itself out to the community as man and wife. During that time both couples "engaged regularly in sexual intercourse" and, their complaint continues, they "felt that sex and private displays of affection for one another were an important part of their relationship and marriage." The rules of the Marion Correctional Institution "completely prohibit any acts of sexual intimacy between inmates and their visitors." Plaintiffs allege and defendants have not denied that no facilities exist for either of the two couples to engage in acts of sexual intimacy. Proceeding from these facts the plaintiffs say in substance that the denial of conjugal visits causes constitutional deprivation of their claimed right of marital privacy and intimacy and the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Plaintiffs contend at the outset that this case is governed by the rule that a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
Elaborating their first claim, plaintiffs say:
They then allege that defendants abridge this fundamental right
Having presumed this "fundamental right of privacy," plaintiffs urge that this right may not be denied prisoners unless that denial is necessitated by the fact of incarceration and the state can show a compelling interest for denying the right as well as the absence of less onerous means of effectuating that interest. Necessarily a prerequisite to these contentions is establishment of the claimed fundamental right of privacy. But this requires a long leap beyond the present concept of the privacy right guaranteed by the Constitution. The right of marital privacy was first recognized by the Supreme Court when it held in Griswold v. Connecticut,
Plaintiffs contend that the deprivation of conjugal visits is causing great physical and psychological stress to them and is "endanger[ing] the stability and the very existence of Plaintiffs' marriages."
The wives, because of the deprivation of sexual relations with their husbands, are allegedly being punished "equally with their husbands although [they] have not been adjudged guilty of any crime or offense against the State of Ohio." Hence it is asserted that the deprivation of conjugal visits "amounts to the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment upon the several Plaintiffs."
It is true that Harlena Lyons and LaQuita Richards in effect are penalized by their husbands' incarceration without having themselves been convicted of a crime. But the Eighth Amendment prohibition does not reach so far as to require the state to ensure against hardships caused to third persons as a result of the incarceration of one convicted of a crime. Accordingly, if an Eighth Amendment violation were found here, the rights affected would only be those of plaintiffs Michael Lyons and Donald Richards.
There is no ready formula for determining what treatment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Trop v. Dulles,
Without attempting to summarize all the Supreme Court's applications of the Eighth Amendment, it may be said for purposes of this case that punishment must be meted out only for crimes committed, must comport with human dignity, and must not be excessively severe in itself or in relation to the crime. The Court has noted, in addition, that the concept of acceptable punishment is not static, but "must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop, supra, 356 U.S. at 101, 78 S.Ct. at 598 (plurality opinion).
The absence of conjugal visiting in prisons is not excessive punishment in itself or disproportional to plaintiffs' crimes. It is merely a customary concomitant of the punishment of incarceration. Plaintiffs allege that they are suffering physical stress; yet less than ideal physical conditions characterize prisons: for example, institutionalized diets, confining cells, limited exercise, lack of quiet. They also allege they have suffered psychological stress. But psychological stress, like loneliness, boredom, wasted time, and the other wages of incarceration, do not in fact and therefore cannot in law constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Trop v. Dulles, supra declares
356 U.S. at 101, 78 S.Ct. at 598 (plurality opinion). This instruction makes it essential to inquire into the fact noted in plaintiffs' brief that a number of foreign countries and "several states, including Mississippi and California, allow prisoners to have conjugal visits with their wives."
In 1968 California began its system of prisoner family visits at California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi, a treatment-oriented institution.
These brief descriptions show that California grants conjugal visiting only with strict eligibility requirements. As for Mississippi, it excludes maximum security prisoners, and the physical facility at Parchman is especially amenable to such visits. Apparently experiments in New Jersey, Texas, and North Carolina have also been undertaken in recent years, but again, only for a select group of prisoners.
New approaches to family visiting incorporating conjugal visiting are being taken in an increasing number of state prisons in our nation. While this trend is one of the indicators of whether "evolving standards of decency" have yet made deprivation of conjugal visiting a constitutional violation, this evolving reform in penological practices is not translatable into a constitutional right.
As this state studies the progress of family visiting including conjugal visiting at some penal institutions in California, Mississippi, and other states, Ohio may decide similarly to expand its program of family visiting at some of its correctional institutions. Nonetheless, as this court understands the constitutional rights of marital privacy and the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, neither of these federal constitutional rights compels Ohio or any other state to grant conjugal visiting to its penal inmates and their spouses.
Upon the entire record, and for the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted.
It is so ordered.
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