TILLERY v. OWENS No. 89-3689.
907 F.2d 418 (1990)
Major TILLERY, Victor Hassine, Kenneth Davenport, William Grandison, Nelson Charles Mikesell and Ellis W. Matthews, Jr., Appellees, v. David S. OWENS, Jr., in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and George Petsock, in his official capacity as the Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh (hereinafter "SCIP"), and Arnold Snitzer, M.D., in his official capacity as a member of the medical staff of State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, and Robert Casey, in his official capacity as the Governor of Pennsylvania, Appellants.
United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
Decided June 29, 1990.
Jere Krakoff, Michael S. Antol, Neighborhood Legal Services Ass'n, Edward J. Feinstein, Pittsburgh, Pa., Alvin Bronstein (Argued), Edward I. Koren, National Prison Project, Washington, D.C., for appellees.
Before SLOVITER and MANSMANN, Circuit Judges, and FULLAM, District Judge
OPINION OF THE COURT
SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.
In this appeal we are called upon to review the district court's findings and conclusion that double-celling inmates in an overcrowded, dilapidated and unsanitary state prison violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The defendants/appellants also question the extent of the district court's power to ameliorate prison conditions.
Appellees, inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh (SCIP), brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against David Owens, Jr., Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, George Petsock, Superintendent of SCIP, Arnold Snitzer, M.D., a member of the medical staff of SCIP, and Robert Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, claiming that the conditions of their confinement violated the Eighth Amendment. Chief Judge Cohill, after conducting a six-week trial and an unannounced tour of SCIP, issued a comprehensive opinion identifying numerous constitutional violations in the administration of the prison. See Tillery v. Owens,
Defendants do not defend double-celling as desirable. They view it as an unpalatable stop-gap response to rapid increases in the prison population. See, e.g., App. at 876-80 (testimony of Superintendent George Petsock). They argue that double-celling, while disfavored, is not unconstitutional and that they should not be required to halt the practice.
The problem of double-celling is not unique to SCIP, see, e.g., Brooks v. Kleiman, No. 88-5068 (E.D.Pa. July 31, 1989) (double-celling at State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania), aff'd without opinion, 899 F.2d 1216 (3d Cir.1990); Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht,
States have been hard pressed to build additional cells to house the hundreds of inmates entering the system and many facilities are overburdened and overcrowded. See, e.g., More and More, Prison Is America's Answer to Crime, N.Y. Times, Nov. 26, 1989, sec. 4, at 1, col. 1 (California state prisons routinely operate at 175% of capacity); Behind Bars, Phila. Inquirer, May 8, 1989, at 1, col. 1 (forty-two states are under some type of court order to reduce overcrowding; federal prison system housing up to 72% more than designed for; New Jersey state prisons operating at 118% capacity). As a result, inmates are increasingly forced to double-cell. See, e.g., Heath v. De Courcy,
The district court's determination that the practice of double-celling at SCIP violates the Eighth Amendment and must be eliminated was made in light of detailed and meticulous findings of fact concerning overcrowding, staff shortages, health care and environmental conditions, including plumbing, ventilation and sanitation. Although we recognize that our recapitulation of the district court's findings necessarily entails a repetition of what is already set forth in that court's reported opinion, we believe an understanding of the salient facts is necessary to the legal analysis we must undertake.
District Court's Findings of Fact
SCIP, which dates to the late 1800s, is a 14-acre complex surrounded by a stone wall. Prisoners are housed in multi-tiered cellblocks in cells that were designed to accommodate one person each. However, since 1982 inmates increasingly have been placed two to a cell because the prison lacked space for its increasing population. At the time of trial, SCIP housed 1,802 inmates, approximately 1,182 of whom were double-celled. The average length of an inmate's sentence is two years, but many serve much longer.
Most inmates are housed in two central structures known as North and South Blocks, which date to the construction of the institution. Each block contains five tiers of cells. North Block contains 640 cells. Of these, 560 cells measure 8 × 7 feet, or 56 square feet ("large" cells), and 80 measure 6 × 6 1/2 feet, or 39 square feet ("small" cells). The top three tiers, containing 363 cells are vacant. According to the district court, the cells are empty "due to inadequate staff." 719 F.Supp. at 1263. The court also noted that the Superintendent of SCIP, George Petsock, testified that the cells had been emptied in anticipation of new housing construction but the construction had not yet begun.
Another structure, A and B Blocks, built in 1986, contains the Western Diagnostic and Classification Center, known as the clinic, as well as 480 cells for inmates needing special psychiatric care, death-sentenced inmates, and inmates who are segregated, either for disciplinary reasons or to protect them from themselves or others. The third level of Block B, which contains 48 cells, is vacant as a result of a staffing shortage. At the time of trial, approximately 762 inmates were housed in Blocks A and B. Plaintiffs do not complain in this suit about the condition and size of these newer quarters.
A typical cell in North and South Block contains a small toilet, a sink with hot and cold running water, a bed, a desk, and a footlocker. Cells housing two inmates are furnished with two bunk beds and two footlockers. Because the only space provided for storage of personal items is one small shelf and the space under the bed, inmates place their possessions in the small aisle between the bed and the opposite wall, or hang them from clothes lines strung across the room. The usable floor space in a large cell is approximately 23 square feet, or 11 1/2 square feet per inmate in a shared cell, while in the small cells the usable floor space is 15 square feet.
Most inmates in North and South Block spend approximately 14 hours a day in their cells. North Block also houses the overflow of clinic inmates who spend 16 hours a day in their cells. Furthermore, some inmates in North Block are in administrative segregation and must spend 21 to 22 hours a day in their cells for as long as four consecutive weeks. The court found that "[b]ecause these shared cells are so tiny, only one inmate at a time can stand in the cell; the other must lie on the bed." Id. at 1264. In fact, when the district judge entered one of the small double cells during his inspection tour, he "was unable to turn around once inside it and had to back out." Id. Obviously, physical exercise is impossible in any of the double cells. Essentially, an inmate can only lie on his bunk or sit at the desk or on the bunk.
Each cell contains a lamp mounted above the upper bunk and a desk light. The desk light provides insufficient light for reading. The lamp provides adequate light for the inmate on the top bunk to read, but virtually no light to the inmate on the bottom bunk. Thus the inmate occupying the lower bunk can read, write or engage in hobbies only during the day.
Despite the small size of the cells, 20% to 25% of the inmates fear to leave them for recreation and exercise because they fear physical assault. Much of the insecurity is due to understaffing. For example, the 741 inmates housed in South Block are supervised by only seven officers at most and guards cannot see many areas of the block. Between 1984 and 1988, there were an average of 97 reported inmate assaults each year at SCIP. The district court found that there were many more unreported assaults, and that there was arson, drug use and theft. Weapons such as knives, ice picks, razors and homemade guns are easily available to inmates. Most are manufactured by inmates in the prison industry facilities and smuggled out. Inmates leaving the facility are not searched on a regular basis and no metal detector is in place.
Outdoor recreation space is limited and also poorly supervised. As a result of recent construction in the complex, the available outdoor space for the 1,800 inmates is limited to approximately half the size of a football field. Inmates in administrative segregation exercise in a yard adjacent to the yard used by inmates in disciplinary segregation. The yards are separated only by a chain-link fence and inmates in disciplinary custody have climbed the fence to fight. No officer is assigned the sole task of guarding these inmates.
The court also found that another result of overcrowding is a shortage of basic supplies such as underwear, jackets, towels and bedding. According to the district court "[i]nmates must often `borrow' these items from other prisoners, and must pay for them with either usurious interest rates or sexual favors." Id. at 1269.
SCIP prison officials have frequently complained about the seriously overcrowded and understaffed conditions. For example, in a memorandum written in 1983, Superintendent Petsock stated that the
Id. at 1267.
In addition to being overcrowded and understaffed, conditions in North and South Block are unsanitary and dangerous. The prison has no general cleaning plan and inmates have sole responsibility for the cleanliness of each cell. However, SCIP fails to provide adequate cleaning supplies so that inmates can clean their cells themselves. Mop heads are never cleaned and brooms are often unavailable. The insufficient light in the cells also hinders efforts to clean thoroughly. Furthermore, some mentally ill inmates are housed in North Block, and their frequent refusal to clean their cells exacerbates sanitation problems. The prison does not even clean the cell when an inmate is transferred and a new inmate assigned to the cell.
Ventilation is grossly inadequate. During the summers air flow is provided only by opening windows, many of which have been broken either by prison personnel attempting to open them or by prisoners. There are no systems to control temperature or humidity, causing excessive odors, heat and humidity. The insufficient ventilation system "significantly increases the risk of transmission of airborne diseases." Id. at 1265.
Vermin are present throughout North and South Blocks. Bed bugs and mice are endemic. Torn mattresses shelter mites, fleas and lice. A sizable bird population has entered the blocks through broken windows and now nests in pipes near the ceiling. The birds drop feces on the floors and railings and "[a]t times, the waste material from birds has been so dense that it has virtually covered the cell block windows." Id.
The plumbing is also inadequate. The prison is filled with leaks and puddles; septic water leaking from the shower drains stands in the basement. Most of the toilets in the cells are old and cracked. Urine sediment has accumulated in the cracks causing noxious odors. Urine also accumulates on the rough concrete walls which are difficult to clean. The seals at the bottom of many toilets have dried out, causing floods in the cells. When plumbing repairs are made, "the toilets in the affected cells are unusable, resulting in the accumulation of human waste for as long as 2 days." Id. at 1266.
According to the district court, the shower facilities pose "one of the most serious problems in the institution." First, there are an inadequate number, in North Block only one for every 33 inmates and in South block only one for every 62 inmates. Thus,
Fire safety in North and South Blocks is poor. Although there are fire extinguishers sufficient to battle small fires, there is no equipment for detecting or fighting major conflagrations. The smoke exhaust fans in use do not adequately protect from smoke inhalation. The lack of fire safety equipment is exacerbated by the high concentration of combustible materials in storage areas and in the housing units. In the cells, mattresses, stored personal belongings, and items hanging from the ceilings allow for the rapid spread of fire. One expert testified that South Block has "the highest degree of `combustible loading'" he had seen during his studies of over 80 prisons. Id. at 1278.
If a fire were to occur, evacuation would be difficult. Because there is no master system for unlocking cells, each cell would have to be individually unlocked, a process that would take at least 12 minutes in ideal conditions. It would take at least an additional three minutes for inmates to exit one of the two doors on the block. However, the block could be entirely filled with smoke within only two or three minutes. Furthermore, it is likely that the evacuation would be chaotic and dangerous. The district court heard testimony that during an evacuation in a 1987 fire, officers left the building as soon as the cells were unlocked, and unsupervised inmates blocked the exits and committed assaults. An expert witness concluded that the poor level of fire protection made it likely that numerous inmates would die if a serious fire broke out.
Medical and psychiatric treatment are also shockingly deficient. There is insufficient staff to treat the increasing number of inmates incarcerated at SCIP, medication is not properly administered, serious illnesses such as AIDS are not diagnosed, inmates with severe mental illnesses are not segregated from the rest of the population, and the area where psychiatric care is given is "in shambles." Id. at 1303.
It is within this squalid, dangerous and overcrowded environment that double-celling takes place. Double-celling was instituted because the rapid increase in the prison population during the last decade has been coupled with chronic understaffing. Experts testified that housing inmates in such tight quarters has negative physical and psychological effects, including increased spread of disease, stress, anxiety and depression.
The district court found that these problems are exacerbated by SCIP's inefficient inmate classification system. SCIP procedures provide that an inmate should not be double-celled if he exhibits assaultive, aggressive or sexual behavior problems or has serious psychiatric or medical impairments. Clinic staff evaluate and classify inmates when they first arrive at SCIP. Because the clinic is overcrowded, inmates are sometimes double-celled before they are evaluated. Furthermore, the clinic relies on information provided by the inmate to determine suitability for double-celling. Inmates do not always disclose negative traits and are double-celled. Once an inmate is classified, his classification is to be recorded for the housing office. Such records have not been kept since October 1987. Not surprisingly, "[t]he record is replete with instances where an inmate has been double-celled even though his propensity for violence, emotional instability, primitive personal hygiene habits or past encounters with a designated cell partner clearly dictated that he should be single-celled." Id. at 1267.
The record before the district court contained numerous examples of the effects of unsuitable double-celling. See, e.g., App. at 1251-55 (testimony of Lieutenant James McFetridge) (inmate forced to double-cell with disturbed inmate who refused to take medication to control his illness, who refused to shower for six months and was infested with lice); App. at 1331-1334 (testimony of inmate James Jones) (witness assaulted cellmate); App. at 1344-55 (testimony of inmate John Matthews) (witness assaulted three times by cellmate after having told administrators his cellmate was threatening him; he was raped by one cellmate); App. at 1369-70 (testimony of inmate Robert Anderson) (witness double-celled with mentally ill inmate who put the witness' bedding in the sink and stood on the toilet all night); App. at 1464 (testimony of inmate Charles Oliver) (witness double-celled with inmate who constantly paced and talked to himself).
Based on this record and its findings of fact, the district court concluded that SCIP was unconstitutionally overcrowded and that sanitation, lighting, shower conditions, ventilation, inmate security, fire safety and health care fell below constitutional requirements.
On appeal, the defendants do not take issue with any of the district court's "basic" or "historical" facts. See R. Aldisert, The Judicial Process 694 (1976). Instead, they challenge the district court's conclusion that double-celling at SCIP is unconstitutional.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. The Supreme Court has described the amendment as embodying "`broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency ...' against which we must evaluate penal measures." Estelle v. Gamble,
Although our understanding of the Eighth Amendment changes as our society progresses, "the inquiry that courts must conduct in eighth amendment cases is not consequently less exacting." Peterkin, 855 F.2d at 1024. The court's judgment must "`be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent.'" Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346, 101 S.Ct. at 2399 (quoting Rummel v. Estelle,
The denial of medical care, prolonged isolation in dehumanizing conditions, exposure to pervasive risk of physical assault, severe overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions have all been found to be cruel and unusual under contemporary standards of decency. See, e.g., Estelle v. Gamble,
In challenging the district court's holding, defendants contend that double-celling is not per se unconstitutional. They rely on the Supreme Court's holding in Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. at 348-49, 101 S.Ct. at 2400-01, that double-celling inmates, under the circumstances in the prison at issue there, did not violate the Eighth Amendment. See also Bell v. Wolfish,
However, in determining whether conditions of confinement violate the Eighth Amendment we must look at the totality of the conditions within the institution. The Supreme Court made this precept clear in Rhodes where it stated that conditions of confinement, "alone, or in combination, may deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." 452 U.S. at 347, 101 S.Ct. at 2399 (emphasis added).
When faced with claims similar to those raised by these plaintiffs with respect to
In Peterkin v. Jeffes, in affirming the district court's rejection of the claims of death row inmates in two Pennsylvania prisons that the conditions of their confinement were unconstitutional, we reiterated that the court must inquire into the totality of the circumstances. We elaborated on the factors to be considered, including food, medical care, sanitation, control of vermin, lighting, heating, ventilation, noise level, bedding, furniture, education and rehabilitation programs, safety and security and staffing. Peterkin, 855 F.2d at 1025-26 & n. 7 (incorporating factors enunciated in Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 364, 101 S.Ct. at 2408 (Brennan, J., concurring)).
In this case, the constitutionality of double-celling must be analyzed in the context of the district court's determination, well supported by the record, that almost every element of the physical plant and provision of services at SCIP falls below constitutional norms. Courts finding double-celling to be permissible have emphasized that the general prison conditions were otherwise adequate. Thus, for example, in Rhodes v. Chapman, the Supreme Court stressed that the district court had found the institution to be "`unquestionably a top-flight, first-class facility,'" 452 U.S. at 341, 101 S.Ct. at 2396 (quoting [Chapman v. Jaworski]
Similarly, in Di Buono, where we held double-celling in New Jersey's Union County Jail to be permissible, we noted there had been no finding that basic prison facilities such as plumbing and ventilation were inadequate. 713 F.2d at 1001 n. 30. The same was true in Peterkin where, unlike SCIP, the prisons were "fairly modern." 855 F.2d at 1026. The area afforded each inmate was significantly greater than that provided here. Id. at 1026 & n. 8. There was adequate lighting and bedding. Id. at 1026-27. Ventilation and sanitation, while less than desirable, had not led to the development or spread of disease and did not fall below constitutional norms. Id. Accordingly, the totality of the circumstances did not fall below constitutional minimums.
On the other hand, double-celling has been found to be unconstitutional where it has been imposed in a decaying physical plant with inadequate staff and security. For example, in French v. Owens, where double-celling was one "feature of severely overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions," 777 F.2d at 1253, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found double-celling to be unconstitutional and affirmed a ban on its use. Id. See also Ramos v. Lamm,
In this case, the district court did not look merely at the space allotted each double-celled inmate, however inadequate that may be, but looked instead at the totality of conditions in the institution. 719 F.Supp. at 1270, 1273. In its opinion the court determined that the institution was unconstitutionally overcrowded, that lighting,
Defendants contend that regardless of the totality of the conditions at SCIP, any finding that double-celling is unconstitutional must be predicated on a showing that double-celling itself has caused increased violence, disease, and other negative conditions.
Defendants also challenge the district court's order requiring them to cease placing inmates in double cells in North and South Blocks by a specified date. They contend that the remedy is not the least restrictive possible and that the court's other remedial orders were sufficient to address the constitutional deficits identified. In particular, they characterize the order as impermissibly invading the state's prerogative to manage its own institutions because it will require the state to reduce the population at SCIP and transfer inmates to other, already overburdened state institutions.
The Supreme Court has enunciated several principles to guide the district courts in exercising their equitable powers which, although they stem primarily from school desegregation cases, are equally applicable in the prison context. First, the nature of the "remedy is to be determined by the nature and scope of the constitutional violation" and thus must be "related to `the condition' alleged to offend the Constitution." Milliken v. Bradley (Milliken II),
In both school desegregation and prison cases the Court has upheld powerful and wide-sweeping remedial orders. In Swann, the district court, over the school board's objections, ordered a variety of techniques, including busing students and pairing and grouping schools, to desegregate the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. 402 U.S. at 9-11, 91 S.Ct. at 1272-74. The Supreme Court found these remedial methods to be "reasonable, feasible and workable." Id. at 31, 91 S.Ct. at 1283. Similarly, in Milliken II, the district court had found de jure segregation in the Detroit public school system and formulated a remedial order that, in addition to busing students to achieve racial balance, required remedial programs in reading, in-service teacher training, non-discriminatory educational testing, and counseling and career guidance. 433 U.S. at 275-76, 97 S.Ct. at 2754-55. The Supreme Court rejected the school district's argument that these remedies exceeded the scope of the constitutional violation, stating that the remedy fell within "the broad and flexible equity powers of the court." Id. at 288, 97 S.Ct. at 2761.
The Court's approach has been no different in its consideration of remedial orders in the prison context. Although it has emphasized that "the problems of prisons in America are complex and intractable, and ... not readily susceptible of resolution by decree," Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 351 n. 16, 101 S.Ct. at 2401 n. 16 (quoting Procunier v. Martinez,
In attempting to remedy the dilemma of the nation's prisons, district courts have imposed a wide variety of remedial measures, including orders requiring the closing of aging and unsanitary institutions, imposing population caps or ordering the cessation of double-celling, and prohibiting certain disciplinary practices. Many orders directing the effectuation of necessary relief have been affirmed by the courts of appeals. See, e.g., Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht,
Defendants suggest that the district court order unduly interferes with the state's administration of its prison system because the end of double-celling in North and South Blocks "requires an immediate reduction in population there; this, in turn, requires that they be absorbed by a state-wide system which is already thirty-seven percent over capacity and which receives two hundred twenty five inmates a month more than it releases. The district court's double celling order in this case appropriates the department." Appellants' Brief at 20. Although defendants protest that they will have to transfer SCIP inmates to other state prisons in order to comply with the order, that is not necessarily the only option. The district court clearly suggested that inmates who have been double-celled could be housed in the vacant cells in North Block and Block A, stating:
719 F.Supp. at 1274. Thus, defendants had at hand the option of hiring more guards so that the empty tiers could be used rather than transferring inmates to other institutions.
Defendants have not contended that they should not be required to hire additional staff, that the vacant cells at the time of the district court's order were not sufficiently numerous, or that requiring them to fill those cells is too intrusive a remedy. It appears from the record that, given the current SCIP population, there were sufficient empty cells to permit the end of double-celling without transferring any inmates from the institution.
Defendants also argue that because the constitutional violations the district court identified will be remedied by the compliance plans submitted to the district court, the ban on double-celling is unnecessary and at best, premature. They assert that they should have been given the opportunity to remedy many of the conditions which bear upon the "totality of the circumstances" determination before the court ruled upon the constitutionality of double-celling.
Once it was established, however, that the practice of double-celling violates contemporary norms of decency in light of the conditions currently extant at SCIP, the district court's order prohibiting the practice of double-celling was well within its equitable powers. SCIP is plagued with an aging, deteriorated physical plant and a rapidly growing population, and it has insufficent staff to adequately manage the institution. There is, as the Supreme Court described in Hutto, an "interdependence of the conditions producing the violation." Hutto, 437 U.S. at 688, 98 S.Ct. at 2572. Not all of these interdependent conditions are equally egregious and not all can be ameliorated immediately. The district court is entitled to require immediate correction of those conditions that it finds to contribute most significantly to the constitutional violations identified and that it determines can be most readily remedied.
It may be that once compliance plans are submitted, approved and implemented, the conditions at SCIP will improve sufficiently so that the district court, at defendants' request and upon a showing of such improvement, will modify its decree to permit double-celling. See French, 777 F.2d at 1253 (adopting this approach). Today, however, the final plans have not yet been submitted to the court, much less approved and implemented.
For the foregoing reasons, the order of the district court will be affirmed. The mandate is to issue forthwith.
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