The question presented is whether the housing of two inmates in a single cell at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Respondents Kelly Chapman and Richard Jaworski are inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), a maximum-security state prison in Lucasville, Ohio. They were housed in the same cell when they brought this action in the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on
The District Court made extensive findings of fact about SOCF on the basis of evidence presented at trial and the court's own observations during an inspection that it conducted without advance notice. 434 F.Supp. 1007 (1977). These findings describe the physical plant, inmate population, and effects of double celling. Neither party contends that these findings are erroneous.
SOCF was built in the early 1970's. In addition to 1,620 cells, it has gymnasiums, workshops, schoolrooms, "dayrooms," two chapels, a hospital ward, commissary, barbershop, and library.
Each cell at SOCF measures approximately 63 square feet. Each contains a bed measuring 36 by 80 inches, a cabinet-type night stand, a wall-mounted sink with hot and cold running water, and a toilet that the inmate can flush from inside the cell. Cells housing two inmates have a two-tiered bunk bed. Every cell has a heating and air circulation vent near the ceiling, and 960 of the cells have a window that inmates can open and close. All of the cells have a cabinet, shelf, and radio built into one of the walls, and in all of the cells one wall consists of bars through which the inmates can be seen.
The "dayrooms" are located adjacent to the cellblocks and are open to inmates between 6:30 a. m. and 9:30 p. m. According to the District Court, "[t]he day rooms are in a sense part of the cells and they are designed to furnish that type of recreation or occupation which an ordinary citizen would seek in his living room or den." Id., at 1012. Each dayroom contains a wall-mounted television, card tables, and chairs. Inmates can pass between their cells and the dayrooms during a 10-minute period each hour, on the hour, when the doors to the dayrooms and cells are opened.
As to the inmate population, the District Court found that SOCF began receiving inmates in late 1972 and double celling them in 1975 because of an increase in Ohio's statewide prison population. At the time of trial, SOCF housed 2,300 inmates, 67% of whom were serving life or other long-term sentences for first-degree felonies. Approximately 1,400 inmates were double celled. Of these, about 75% had the choice of spending much of their waking hours outside their cells, in the dayrooms, school, workshops, library, visits, meals, or showers. The other double-celled inmates spent
The remaining findings by the District Court addressed respondents' allegation that overcrowding created by double celling overwhelmed SOCF's facilities and staff. The food was "adequate in every respect," and respondents adduced no evidence "whatsoever that prisoners have been underfed or that the food facilities have been taxed by the prison population." Id., at 1014. The air ventilation system was adequate, the cells were substantially free of offensive odor, the temperature in the cellblocks was well controlled, and the noise in the cellblocks was not excessive. Double celling had not reduced significantly the availability of space in the dayrooms or visitation facilities,
Despite these generally favorable findings, the District Court concluded that double celling at SOCF was cruel and unusual punishment. The court rested its conclusion on five considerations. One, inmates at SOCF are serving long terms of imprisonment. In the court's view, that fact "can only accent[uate] the problems of close confinement and overcrowding." Id., at 1020. Two, SOCF housed 38% more inmates at the time of trial than its "design capacity." In reference to this the court asserted: "Overcrowding necessarily involves excess limitation of general movement as well as physical and mental injury from long exposure." Ibid. Three, the court accepted as contemporary standards of decency several studies recommending that each person in an institution have at least 50-55 square feet of living quarters.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, petitioners argued that the District Court's conclusion must be read, in light of its findings, as holding that double celling is per se unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals disagreed; it viewed the District Court's opinion as holding only that double celling is cruel and unusual punishment under the circumstances at SOCF. It affirmed, without further opinion, on the ground that the District Court's findings were not clearly erroneous, its conclusions of law were "permissible from the findings," and its remedy was a reasonable response to the violations found.
We granted the petition for certiorari because of the importance of the question to prison administration. 449 U.S. 951 (1980). We now reverse.
We consider here for the first time the limitation that the Eighth Amendment, which is applicable to the States through
The Eighth Amendment, in only three words, imposes the constitutional limitation upon punishments: they cannot be "cruel and unusual." The Court has interpreted these words "in a flexible and dynamic manner," Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 171 (1976) (joint opinion), and has extended the Amendment's reach beyond the barbarous physical punishments at issue in the Court's earliest cases. See Wilkerson
No static "test" can exist by which courts determine whether conditions of confinement are cruel and unusual, for the Eighth Amendment "must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion). The Court has held, however, that "Eighth Amendment judgments should neither be nor appear to be merely the subjective views" of judges. Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263, 275 (1980). To be sure, "the Constitution contemplates that in the end [a court's] own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability" of a given punishment. Coker v. Georgia, supra, at 597 (plurality opinion); Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 182 (joint opinion). But such "`judgment[s] should be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent.'" Rummel v. Estelle, supra, at 274-275, quoting Coker v. Georgia, supra, at 592 (plurality opinion). For example, when the question was whether capital punishment for certain crimes violated contemporary values, the Court looked for "objective indicia" derived from history, the action of
These principles apply when the conditions of confinement compose the punishment at issue. Conditions must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, nor may they be grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting imprisonment. In Estelle v. Gamble, supra, we held that the denial of medical care is cruel and unusual because, in the worst case, it can result in physical torture, and, even in less serious cases, it can result in pain without any penological purpose. 429 U. S., at 103. In Hutto v. Finney, supra, the conditions of confinement in two Arkansas prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment because they resulted in unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs. Conditions other than those in Gamble and Hutto, alone or in combination, may deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Such conditions could be cruel and unusual under the contemporary standard of decency that we recognized in Gamble, supra, at 103-104. But conditions that cannot be said to be cruel and unusual under contemporary standards are not unconstitutional. To the extent that such conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.
In view of the District Court's findings of fact, its conclusion that double celling at SOCF constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is insupportable. Virtually every one
The five considerations on which the District Court relied also are insufficient to support its constitutional conclusion. The court relied on the long terms of imprisonment served by inmates at SOCF; the fact that SOCF housed 38% more inmates than its "design capacity"; the recommendation of several studies that each inmate have at least 50-55 square feet of living quarters; the suggestion that double-celled inmates spend most of their time in their cells with their cellmates; and the fact that double celling at SOCF was not a temporary condition. Supra, at 343-344. These general considerations fall far short in themselves of proving cruel and unusual punishment, for there is no evidence that double celling under these circumstances either inflicts unnecessary or wanton pain or is grossly disproportionate to the severity of crimes warranting imprisonment.
This Court must proceed cautiously in making an Eighth Amendment judgment because, unless we reverse it, "[a] decision that a given punishment is impermissible under the Eighth Amendment cannot be reversed short of a constitutional amendment," and thus "[r]evisions cannot be made in the light of further experience." Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U. S., at 176. In assessing claims that conditions of confinement are cruel and unusual, courts must bear in mind that their inquiries "spring from constitutional requirements and that judicial answers to them must reflect that fact rather than a court's idea of how best to operate a detention facility." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U. S., at 539.
In this case, the question before us is whether the conditions of confinement at SOCF are cruel and unusual. As we find that they are not, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE BLACKMUN and JUSTICE STEVENS join, concurring in the judgment.
Today's decision reaffirms that "[c]ourts certainly have a responsibility to scrutinize claims of cruel and unusual confinement." Ante, this page. With that I agree. I also agree that the District Court's findings in this case do not support a judgment that the practice of double celling in the Southern
Although this Court has never before considered what prison conditions constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, see ante, at 344-345, such questions have been addressed repeatedly by the lower courts. In fact, individual prisons or entire prison systems in at least 24 States have been declared unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments,
No one familiar with litigation in this area could suggest that the courts have been overeager to usurp the task of running prisons, which, as the Court today properly notes, is entrusted in the first instance to the "legislature and prison administration rather than a court." Ante, at 349. And certainly, no one could suppose that the courts have ordered creation of "comfortable prisons," ibid., on the model of country clubs. To the contrary, "the soul-chilling inhumanity of conditions in American prisons has been thrust upon the judicial conscience." Inmates of Suffolk County Jail v. Eisenstadt, 360 F.Supp. 676, 684 (Mass. 1973).
Judicial opinions in this area do not make pleasant reading.
Unfortunately, the Alabama example is neither abberational nor anachronistic. Last year, in Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559 (1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 1041 (1981), for example, the Tenth Circuit declared conditions in the maximum-security unit of the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City unconstitutional. The living areas of the prison were "unfit for human habitation," 639 F. 2d, at 567; the food unsanitary and "grossly inadequate," id., at 570; the institution "fraught with tension and violence," often leading to injury and death, id., at 572; the health care "blatant[ly] inadequat[e]" and "appalling," id., at 574; and there were various restrictions of prisoners' rights to visitation, mail, and access to courts in violation of basic constitutional rights, id., at 578-585. Similar tales of horror are recounted in dozens of other cases. See, e. g., cases cited in n. 1, supra.
Overcrowding and cramped living conditions are particularly pressing problems in many prisons. Out of 82 court orders in effect concerning conditions of confinement in federal and state correctional facilities as of March 31, 1978, 26 involved the issue of overcrowding. 3 American Prisons and Jails 32. Two-thirds of all inmates in federal, state, and local correctional facilities were confined in cells or dormitories providing less than 60 square feet per person—the minimal standard deemed acceptable by the American Public Health Association, the Justice Department, and other authorities.
Over the last decade, correctional resources, never ample, have lagged behind burgeoning prison populations. In Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F.Supp. 1265 (SD Tex. 1980), for example, the court stated that an "unprecedented surge" in the number of inmates has "undercut any realistic expectation" of eliminating double and triple celling, despite construction of a new $43 million unit. Id., at 1280-1281. The number of inmates in federal and state correctional facilities has risen 42% since 1975, and last year grew at its fastest rate in three years. Krajick, The Boom Resumes, 7 Corrections Magazine 16-17 (Apr. 1981) (report of annual survey of prison populations).
Under these circumstances, the courts have emerged as a critical force behind efforts to ameliorate inhumane conditions. Insulated as they are from political pressures, and charged with the duty of enforcing the Constitution, courts are in the strongest position to insist that unconstitutional conditions be remedied, even at significant financial cost. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, then serving on the Court of Appeals, set the tone in Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 580 (CA8 1968): "Humane considerations and constitutional requirements are not, in this day, to be measured or limited by dollar considerations . . . ."
Progress toward constitutional conditions of confinement in the Nation's prisons has been slow and uneven, despite judicial pressure. Nevertheless, it is clear that judicial intervention has been responsible, not only for remedying some of the worst abuses by direct order, but also for "forcing the legislative branch of government to reevaluate correction policies and to appropriate funds for upgrading penal systems." 3 American Prisons and Jails 163. A detailed study of four prison conditions cases by the American Bar Association concluded:
Even prison officials have acknowledged that judicial intervention has helped them to obtain support for needed reform. GAO, Comptroller General, Report to Congress: The Department of Justice Can Do More to Help Improve Conditions at State and Local Correctional Facilities 12-13 (GGD-80-77, 1980). The Commissioner of Corrections of New York City, a defendant in many lawsuits challenging jail and prison conditions, has stated: "Federal courts may be the last resort for us . . . . If there's going to be change, I think the federal courts are going to have to force cities and states to spend more money on their prisons. . . . I look on the courts as a friend." Gettinger, "Cruel and Unusual" Prisons, 3 Corrections Magazine 3, 5 (Dec. 1977). In a similar vein, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections testified before a congressional Committee that lawsuits brought on behalf of prison inmates.
The task of the courts in cases challenging prison conditions is to "determine whether a challenged punishment comports with human dignity." Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 282 (1972) (BRENNAN, J., concurring). Such determinations are necessarily imprecise and indefinite, Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 100-101 (1958); Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130, 135-136 (1879); they require careful scrutiny of challenged conditions, and application of realistic yet humane standards.
In performing this responsibility, this Court and the lower
The first aspect of judicial decisionmaking in this area is scrutiny of the actual conditions under challenge. It is important to recognize that various deficiencies in prison conditions "must be considered together." Holt v. Sarver, 309 F. Supp., at 373. The individual conditions "exist in combination; each affects the other; and taken together they [may] have a cumulative impact on the inmates." Ibid. Thus, a court considering an Eighth Amendment challenge to conditions
Moreover, in seeking relevant information about conditions in a prison, the court must be open to evidence and assistance from many sources, including expert testimony and studies on the effect of particular conditions on prisoners. For this purpose, public health, medical, psychiatric, psychological, penological, architectural, structural, and other experts have proved useful to the lower courts in observing and interpreting prison conditions. See, e. g., Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 443 F. Supp., at 960 (commenting that the court's "task was made easier by the extensive assistance of experts").
More elusive, perhaps, is the second aspect of the judicial inquiry: application of realistic yet humane standards to the conditions as observed. Courts have expressed these standards in various ways, see, e.g., M. C. I. Concord Advisory Bd. v. Hall, 447 F.Supp. 398, 404 (Mass. 1978) ("contemporary standards of decency"); Palmigiano v. Garrahy, supra, at 979 (conditions so bad as to "shock the conscience of any reasonable citizen"); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) ("`broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency,'" quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.
In determining when prison conditions pass beyond legitimate punishment and become cruel and unusual, the "touchstone is the effect upon the imprisoned." Laaman v. Helgemoe, 437 F. Supp., at 323. The court must examine the effect upon inmates of the condition of the physical plant (lighting, heat, plumbing, ventilation, living space, noise levels, recreation space); sanitation (control of vermin and insects, food preparation, medical facilities, lavatories and showers, clean places for eating, sleeping, and working); safety (protection from violent, deranged, or diseased inmates, fire protection, emergency evacuation); inmate needs and services (clothing, nutrition, bedding, medical, dental, and mental health care, visitation time, exercise and recreation, educational and rehabilitative programming); and staffing (trained and adequate guards and other staff, avoidance of placing inmates in positions of authority over other inmates). See ibid.; Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F. 2d, at 567-581. When "the cumulative impact of the conditions of incarceration threatens the physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being of the inmates and/or creates a probability of recidivism and future incarceration," the court must conclude that the conditions violate the Constitution. Laaman v. Helgemoe, supra, at 323.
A reviewing court is generally limited in its perception of a case to the findings of the trial court. I have not seen the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, nor have I directly heard evidence concerning conditions there. From the District Court opinion, I know that the prison is a modern, "top-flight, first-class facility," built in the early 1970's at a cost of some $32 million, 434 F.Supp. 1007, 1009 (SD Ohio 1977). Chief Judge Hogan, who toured the facility, described it as "not lacking in color," and, "generally speaking,. . . quite light and . . . airy, etc." Id., at 1011. The cells are reasonably well furnished, with one cabinet-type night stand, one wall cabinet, one wall shelf, one wall-mounted lavatory with hot and cold running water and steel mirror, one china commode flushed from inside the cell, one wall-mounted radio, one heating and air circulation vent, one lighting fixture, and one bed or bunkbed. Id., at 1011-1012. Prisoners in each cellblock have frequent access to a dayroom, which is "in a sense part of the cells," and is "designed to furnish that type of recreation or occupation which an ordinary citizen would seek in his living room or den." Id., at 1012. Food is "adequate in every respect," and the kitchens and dining rooms are clean. Id., at 1014. Prisoners are all permitted contact visitation. Ibid. The ratio of inmates to guards is "well within the acceptable ratio," and incidents of violence, while not uncommon, have not increased out of proportion to inmate population. Id., at 1014-1015, 1016-1018. Plumbing and lighting are adequate. Id., at 1015. The prison has a modern, well-stocked library, with an adequate law library. Id., at 1010, and n. 2. It has eight schoolrooms, two chapels, a commissary, a barbershop, dining rooms, kitchens, and workshops. Ibid. Virtually the only serious complaint of the inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is that 1,280 of the 1,620 cells are used to house two inmates.
The "touchstone" of the Eighth Amendment inquiry is "`the effect upon the imprisoned.'" Supra, at 364, quoting Laaman v. Helgemoe, 437 F. Supp., at 323. The findings of the District Court leave no doubt that the prisoners are adequately sheltered, fed, and protected, and that opportunities for education, work, and rehabilitative assistance are available.
The consequence of the District Court's order might well be to make life worse for many Ohio inmates, at least in the short run. As a result of the order, some prisoners have been transferred to the Columbus Correctional Facility, a deteriorating prison nearly 150 years old, itself the subject of litigation over conditions of confinement and under a preliminary order enjoining racially segregative and punitive practices. See Stewart v. Rhodes, 473 F.Supp. 1185 (SD Ohio 1979).
The District Court may well be correct in the abstract that prison overcrowding and double celling such as existed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility generally results in serious harm to the inmates. But cases are not decided in the abstract. A court is under the obligation to examine the actual effect of challenged conditions upon the well-being of the prisoners.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in the judgment.
Despite the perhaps technically correct observation, ante, at 344-345, that the Court is "consider[ing] here for the first time the limitation that the Eighth Amendment . . . imposes upon the conditions in which a State may confine those convicted of crimes," it obviously is not writing upon a clean slate. See Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 685-688 (1978); cf. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). Already, concerns about prison conditions and their constitutional significance have been expressed by the Court.
Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571 (CA8 1968), cited by both JUSTICE BRENNAN, and by JUSTICE MARSHALL in dissent here, was, I believe, one of the first cases in which a federal court examined state penitentiary practices and held them to be violative of the Eighth Amendment's proscription of "cruel and unusual punishments." I sat on that appeal, and I was
I perceive, as JUSTICE BRENNAN obviously does in view of his separate writing, a possibility that the Court's opinion in this case today might be regarded, because of some of its language, as a signal to prison administrators that the federal courts now are to adopt a policy of general deference to such administrators and to state legislatures, deference not only for the purpose of determining contemporary standards of decency, ante, at 346, but for the purpose of determining whether conditions at a particular prison are cruel and unusual within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, ante, at 349-352. That perhaps was the old attitude prevalent several decades ago. I join JUSTICE BRENNAN'S opinion because I, too, feel that the federal courts must continue to be available to those state inmates who sincerely claim that the conditions to which they are subjected are violative of the Amendment. The Court properly points out in its opinion, ante, at 347, that incarceration necessarily, and constitutionally, entails restrictions, discomforts, and a loss of privileges that complete freedom affords. But incarceration is not an open door for unconstitutional cruelty or neglect. Against that kind of penal condition, the Constitution and the federal courts, it is to be hoped, together remain as an available bastion.
JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.
From reading the Court's opinion in this case, one would surely conclude that the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) is a safe, spacious prison that happens to include many two-inmate cells because the State has determined that that is the best way to run the prison. But the facility
I do not dispute that the state legislature indeed made policy judgments when it built SOCF. It decided that Ohio needed a maximum-security prison that would house some 1,600 inmates. In keeping with prevailing expert opinion, the legislature made the further judgments that each inmate would have his own cell and that each cell would have approximately 63 square feet of floor space. But because of prison overcrowding. hundreds of the cells are shared, or "doubled," which is hardly what the legislature intended.
The Eighth Amendment "embodies `broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency,'" against which conditions of confinement must be judged. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976), quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (CA8 1968). Thus the State cannot impose punishment that violates "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion). For me, the legislative judgment and the consistent conclusions by those who have studied the problem provide considerable evidence that those standards condemn imprisonment in conditions so crowded that serious harm will result. The record amply demonstrates that those conditions are present here. It is surely not disputed that SOCF is severely overcrowded. The prison is operating at 38% above its design capacity.
If the majority did no more than state its disagreement with the courts below over the proper reading of the record, I would end my opinion here. But the Court goes further, adding some unfortunate dicta that may be read as a warning to federal courts against interference with a State's operation of its prisons. If taken too literally, the majority's admonitions might eviscerate the federal courts' traditional role of preventing a State from imposing cruel and unusual punishment through its conditions of confinement.
The majority concedes that federal courts "certainly have a responsibility to scrutinize claims of cruel and unusual confinement," ante, at 352, but adds an apparent caveat:
As I suggested at the outset, none of this has anything to
In several instances, the dissent selectively relies on testimony without acknowledging that the District Court gave it little or no weight. For example, the dissent emphasizes the testimony of experts as to psychological problems that "may be expected" from double celling; it also relies on similar testimony as to an increase in tension and aggression. Id., at 1017. The dissent fails to mention, however, that the District Court also referred to the testimony by the prison superintendent and physician that "there has been no increase [in violence] other than what one would expect from increased numbers [of inmates]." Id., at 1018. More telling is the fact—ignored by the dissent—that the District Court resolved this conflict in the testimony by holding "that there had been no increase in violence or criminal activity increase due to double celling; there has been [an increase] due to increased population." Ibid. This holding was based on uncontroverted prison records, required to be maintained by the Ohio Department of Corrections and described by the District Court as being "detail[ed] and bespeak[ing] credibility." Ibid.
There is some ambiguity in the opinion of the District Court concerning the amount of time that double-celled inmates were required to remain in their cells. The dissent, post, at 373, n. 6, relies only on selective findings that most inmates are out of their cells only 10 hours each day, and that others are out only 4-6 hours a week. 434 F. Supp., at 1013. The dissent fails to note that the first of these findings is flatly inconsistent with a prior, twice-repeated, finding by the court that inmates "have to be locked in their cell with their cellmate only from around 9:00 p. m. to 6:30 a. m.," id., at 1013, 1012, leaving them free to move about for some 14 hours. Moreover, it is unquestioned—and also not mentioned by the dissent—that the inmates who spend most of their time locked in their cells are those who have a "restrictive classification." These include inmates found guilty of "rule infractions [after] a plenary hearing" and inmates who "are there by `choice' (at least to some degree)." Ibid. It must be remembered that SOCF is a maximum-security prison, housing only persons guilty of violent and other serious crimes. It is essential to maintain a regime of close supervision and discipline.
The dissent also makes much of the fact that SOCF was housing 38% more inmates at the time of trial than its "rated capacity." According to the United States Bureau of Prisons, at least three factors influence prison population: the number of arrests, prosecution policies, and sentencing and parole decisions. Because these factors can change rapidly, while prisons require years to plan and build, it is extremely difficult to calibrate a prison's "rated" or "design capacity" with predictions of prison population. Memorandum of United States as Amicus Curiae 3, 6. The question before us is not whether the designer of SOCF guessed incorrectly about future prison population, but whether the actual conditions of confinement at SOCF are cruel and unusual.
"[T]he problems of prisons in America are complex and intractable, and, more to the point, they are not readily susceptible of resolution by decree. Most require expertise, comprehensive planning, and the commitment of resources, all of which are peculiarly within the province of the legislative and executive branches of government. For all of those reasons, courts are ill equipped to deal with the increasingly urgent problems of prison administration and reform. Judicial recognition of that fact reflects no more than a healthy sense of realism." Procunier v. Martinez, supra, at 404-405 (footnote omitted).
See also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 561-562, 568 (1974); Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, supra, at 125.
Since our decision in Martinez, the problems of prison population and administration have been exacerbated by the increase of serious crime and the effect of inflation on the resources of States and communities. This case is illustrative. Ohio designed and built SOCF in the early 1970's, and even at the time of trial it was found to be a modern "top-flight, first-class facility." Supra, at 341. Yet, an unanticipated increase in the State's prison population compelled the double celling that is at issue.
"it is impossible for a written opinion to convey the pernicious conditions and the pain and degradation which ordinary inmates suffer within [unconstitutionally operated prisons]—the gruesome experiences of youthful first offenders forcibly raped; the cruel and justifiable fears of inmates, wondering when they will be called upon to defend the next violent assault; the sheer misery, the discomfort, the wholesale loss of privacy for prisoners housed with one, two, or three others in a forty-five foot cell or suffocatingly packed together in a crowded dormitory; the physical suffering and wretched psychological stress which must be endured by those sick or injured who cannot obtain medical care . . . .
"For those who are incarcerated within [such prisons], these conditions and experiences form the content and essence of daily existence." Ruiz v. Estelle, supra, at 1391.
"Federal courts sit not to supervise prisons but to enforce the constitutional rights of all `persons,' including prisoners. We are not unmindful that prison officials must be accorded latitude in the administration of prison affairs, and that prisoners necessarily are subject to appropriate rules and regulations. But persons in prison, like other individuals, have the right to petition the Government for redress of grievances which, of course, includes `access of prisoners to the courts for the purpose of presenting their complaints.'"
During trial in this case, and before final judgment by the District Court, the prison implemented a plan limiting double celling to those inmates free to move about the facility 15 hours per day. Brief for Petitioners 27.
The majority assumes, ante, at 350, n. 15, that the trial court's finding that most inmates are out of their cells only 10 hours each day is "flatly inconsistent" with its finding that regulations permit most inmates to be out of their cells up to 14 hours each day. The majority goes on to reject the first finding in favor of the second. A more reasonable course would be to read these two findings in such a way as to give meaning to both. Thus I read the District Court's opinion as finding that although most inmates are permitted to be out of their cells up to 14 hours each day, conditions in the prison are such that many choose not to do so.
The majority also attaches importance to the fact that the inmates who are locked in their cells for all but four to six hours a week are in a "restrictive classification." Ibid. It is not clear to me why this matters. The inmates who are out of their cells only four to six hours each week are in three categories: "receiving," a category in which new inmates are placed for "a couple of weeks"; "voluntarily idle," which presumably means what it says; and "limited activity," for those inmates who have requested, but have not received, protective custody. It is not immediately apparent why classification in any of these categories justifies imposition of otherwise cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, the State surely lacks authority to force an individual to choose between possibility of rape or other physical harm (the presumed reason for the request for protective custody) and unconstitutionally cramped quarters. The majority asserts, incorrectly, that some of these inmates have committed rule infractions. Ibid. In fact, inmates who commit infractions are out of their cells only two hours each week. 434 F. Supp., at 1013. Although this dissent has not addressed their particular plight, it is beyond question that if punishment is cruel and unusual, then the mere fact that an individual prisoner has committed a rule infraction does not warrant its imposition. See Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 685-688 (1978).