WESTEFER v. SNYDER
725 F.Supp.2d 735 (2010)
United States District Court, S.D. Illinois.
July 20, 2010.
The precise baseline to use in ascertaining whether conditions in the supermax prison at Tamms create atypical and significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life has been the subject of considerable dispute among the parties to this case. Counsel for Plaintiffs and the class propose as the correct baseline conditions at the OSP or, alternatively, conditions in the general prison population at the Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") and the Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). Concerning inmates transferred to Tamms from prisons outside Illinois, Plaintiffs contend that the baseline is furnished by conditions at the institutions where such inmates were confined immediately before they were transferred to Tamms. For their part, Defendants argue that the correct baseline is supplied by conditions in disciplinary segregation at the Pontiac Correctional Center 2. Conditions at the Supermax Prison at Tamms
("Pontiac"). To the extent Defendants seem to argue that the existence of a liberty interest in avoiding confinement of Tamms hinges on the language of IDOC regulations, their position obviously is incorrect. As the Wilkinson Court noted, "the touchstone of the inquiry into the existence of a protected, state-created liberty interest in avoiding restrictive conditions of confinement is not the language of regulations regarding those conditions but the nature of those conditions themselves `in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'" 545 U.S. at 223, 125 S.Ct. 2384 (quoting Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293). The basic question, then, is the sort of "expectation or interest" inmates have in light of normal conditions of confinement. Id. at 221, 125 S.Ct. 2384 (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-58, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935 (1974)). In an earlier order in this case the Court concluded that the correct test of whether confinement in the supermax prison at Tamms imposes atypical and significant hardship on inmates such as to give rise to a liberty interest in avoiding confinement there is whether confinement at Tamms imposes atypical and significant hardship "under any plausible baseline." Westefer, 2009 WL 2905548, at *4 (quoting Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 223, 125 S.Ct. 2384). Accordingly, in light of the three factors identified as relevant in Wilkinson (e.g., limitations on human contact, indefinite duration of placement, and the effect of supermax confinement on the length of an inmate's sentence), the Court will examine first conditions at Tamms, then compare those conditions to conditions at the OSP, in segregation at Pontiac, and in the general population at Menard and Stateville, as well as in prisons outside Illinois from which inmates have been transferred to Tamms.
a. Limitations on Human Contact
With respect to the matter of the limitations on human contact imposed by confinement at Tamms, it is clear from the record of this case that confinement at Tamms is an experience of very intense isolation for inmates. In fact, even before the supermax prison at Tamms was opened in 1998, the 1993 final report of the Illinois Task Force on Crime and Corrections, which recommended the construction of the supermax prison, cautioned,
Reputable human rights organizations... have expressed legitimate and serious concerns about practices in existing super-maximum security facilities. The Task Force recommends that our Super-Max facility be required by statute to conform to certain requirements concerning constitutional and humanitarian safeguards. Since these highly restrictive environments, if misused, can create conditions tantamount to long-term isolation, the Department of Corrections will have to establish clearly defined rules and regulations to govern the admission and release of inmates from the Super-Max facility and to monitor its operation and administration closely.
Illinois Task Force on Crime and Corrections, Final Report, at 87-88 (1993) (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 19) (emphasis added). As the Court hopes will be apparent from its discussion of the evidence in this case, including the Court's first-hand observation of conditions at Tamms during a tour of the facility in the company of IDOC officials and counsel for the parties to this case, the Task Force's concerns about confinement in the supermax prison at Tamms becoming an experience of long-term isolation for IDOC inmates were and are well-founded.
Generally speaking, the Tamms supermax prison is small by the standards of the
other prisons in the IDOC system, containing only 520 beds. See Deposition of George Welborn at 54, 56. By way of comparison, data on the website of the IDOC (http://www.idoc.state.il.us), which the Court can judicially notice, see Denius v. Dunlap, 330 F.3d 919, 926 (7th Cir. 2003); Laborers' Pension Fund v. Blackmore Sewer Constr., Inc., 298 F.3d 600, 607 (7th Cir.2002), reflects that: Menard has a capacity of 1,938 inmates and an average daily population of 3,466 inmates; Stateville has a capacity of 2,980 inmates and an average daily population of 3,357 inmates; and Pontiac has a capacity of 1,058 inmates and an average daily population of 1, 612 inmates. The reason that the supermax prison at Tamms is relatively small is that the prison is designed to house the worst, most problematic inmates in the IDOC system. See Doc. 144 (Second Amended Complaint) at 2 ¶ 2; Doc. 148 (Answer) at 1 ¶ 2; Doc. 267-3 (Transcript of Orientation Presentation for Tamms Correctional Personnel by George C. Welborn) at 4, 10. Inmates are placed at Tamms in one of two categories: disciplinary segregation or administrative detention. See Doc. 522 (Randle Testimony) at 10; Welborn Deposition at 37. Inmates placed at Tamms in disciplinary segregation are those who are deemed to be dangerous even in disciplinary segregation at other prisons. See Doc. 522 (Randle Testimony) at 19, 22, 27-28. Inmates assigned to Tamms in administrative detention are those who are deemed to be dangerous when housed at other prisons, such as validated members of prison gangs or "security threat groups" ("STGs") as such gangs are referred to in correctional parlance. See id. at 19, 22.