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Overcrowding

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Prison Overcrowding -- California, 2011 (9) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.

     An intermediate California appeals court issued an order to show cause on a prisonerís claim that he was denied due process of law when he was not released at the conclusion of a prison-reduction procedure developed pursuant to the order of the three-judge federal court concerned with overcrowding. He argued that the Board of Prison Hearings should have granted him parole as a non-violent, non-sex-registrant second-strike (NVSS) inmate. The federal court order was issued in a prison class action litigation after the court found that California state prisoners' federal constitutional rights had been violated as a result of overcrowding, and after the court found that a prison release order was the only relief capable of remedying the constitutional deficiencies. Further, it was issued after the United States Supreme Court affirmed those rulings, after the three-judge court issued its remedial order in reliance on the state defendants' representation and agreement that they would develop comprehensive and sustainable prison population-reduction reforms, and after the state defendants agreed not to contest the remedial order. The appeals court concluded that, because the Board's decision involved a constitutionally protected liberty interest, the plaintiff was entitled to judicial review of the decision. It also concluded that the record of what was presented to the Board during the review process contained some evidence to support the decision not to grant parole, so the prisonerís due process rights were not violated. The appeals court considered the prisonerís petition on its merits and denied it. The prisoner was serving a sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm with a gang enhancement, and therefore posed an unreasonable risk to public safety. His history of violent conduct included battery, burglary, two robberies, and stockpiling guns and ammunition. In re Ilasa, #D069629, 3 Cal. App. 5th 489, 208 Cal. Rptr. 3d 17, 2016 Cal. App. Lexis 779.
     Prisoners in Idaho who sued over the issue of prison overcrowding 25 years ago obtained injunctive relief. Their attorneys went back to court recently to argue that the defendants should be held in contempt for failing to comply with the relief granted, but the problem was corrected in the meantime, so no contempt order was issued. Attorneys' fees were still awarded to the lawyers, however, as their motion was the "catalyst" for the state to remedy the violations. The appeals court upheld the award of $76,185.60 in attorneys' fees, $12,249.20 in costs, and $6.94 in postage and supplies as reasonable, and stated that the lawyers had not "milked" the case just to run up fees. Balla v. State of Idaho, #10-35413, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 7644 (9th Cir.).
     The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the order of a special three-judge court ordering that the California state prison system reduce its population from 156,000 prisoners, nearly double capacity, by approximately 46,000 prisoners, or 137.5% of design capacity within two years. Current overcrowding was found to have resulted in inadequate medical care and mental health treatment. The Court found that the injunctive order complied with the stringent requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and that the court below properly gave "substantial weight" to any potential adverse impact on public safety from the order. Brown v. Plata, #09Ė1233, 2011 U.S. Lexis 4012.
     A three-judge federal court panel has ordered that the state of California reduce its prison population of 150,000 by approximately 40,000, or a 27% reduction, within a two-year period, for the purpose of combating overcrowding and various alleged deficiencies in prison medical programs and other prison conditions which allegedly resulted in prisoner deaths from increased violence and the spread of disease and infections. The panel rules that the population reduction in the California prison system to 137.5% of capacity was the least restrictive means to accomplish necessary changes. Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, #CIV S-90-0520, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 67943 (E.D. Cal., three judge court).
     A panel of three federal judges issued a tentative ruling in a case alleging overcrowding in California prisons that could ultimately result in the release of up to 57,000 inmates, or one third of the state's prisoners. Evidence heard, including expert witness testimony, indicated that the state's prison system was operating at almost 200 percent of design capacity in August of 2008, and that a number of potentially dangerous and unconstitutional conditions of confinement exist, including inadequate medical care and mental health services. The court found that this justified the issuance of an order for the reduction of the prison population under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and issued a tentative ruling so that correctional officials would have adequate notice of the possible release order and be able to plan for it. The release order, if issued, according to news reports, would probably take place over a two to three year time period. Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, No. Civ. S-90-0520, (3-judge court. U.S. Dist. E.D. and N.D. Cal. 2009).
     The Florida Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand for St. Lucie County Court Judge Clifford Barnes, who filed a lawsuit seeking to change the way county authorities handled jail overcrowding. His actions were found to violate principles of judicial impartiality and to have cause disrepute to the judicial system. His petition for a writ of mandamus (subsequently withdrawn) claimed that the county failed to give arrested detainees "a meaningful first appearance hearing," so that they remained in jail pending trial, resulting in overcrowding. Inquiry Concerning Judge (Barnes), No. 05-437, No. SC06-2119 A (Fla. 2009).
     Even if, arguably, California law previously gave an inmate a protected liberty interest against transfer to an out-of-state facility, that interest was abrogated by the governor's "Prison Overcrowding State of Emergency" proclamation in October of 2006, and a subsequent amendment to the state statute at issue. The court therefore dismissed the prisoner's challenge to his transfer to an out-of-state facility, which was initiated in May of 2008. Thornton v. Schwarzenegger, No. Civ. 08-1260, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 8496 (E.D. Cal.).
     While pretrial detainees were allegedly housed in crowded conditions, including triple celling in some instances, a federal appeals court found, under the totality of the circumstances, that this did not constitute a due process violation of the detainees' rights. Additionally, even if the detainees' rights were violated, the defendant officials were entitled to qualified immunity, since the right of pretrial detainees to be free from overcrowded conditions was not clearly established at the time of the alleged problem. Hubbard v. Taylor, No. 06-4627, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 16545 (3rd Cir.).
     The Governor of California did not exceed his authority in declaring a state of emergency in relation to prison overcrowding, and then entering into contracts to house California inmates in out-of-state private prisons. Under state law, he could proclaim such states of emergency when there is "extreme peril" in an area exclusively under the control of the state government. Until additional state prisons were constructed, there was an urgent need for services to provide safety from the risks created by overcrowding. The court therefore rejected a challenge to the Governor's actions filed by a prison guards union and others. California Correctional Peace Officers' Association v. Schwarzenegger, No. C055327, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 832 (3rd Dist.).
     Prisoner's claim that "triple-bunking" in a federal prison resulted in "tension, stress, and fear of increased hostility" was insufficient to state a claim for a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. He failed to show that there had been a serious deprivation of "basic human needs." Northv. White, No. 04-3480, 152 Fed. Appx. 111 (3rd Cir. 2005). [N/R]
     Prisoner's grievance challenging an alleged practice of "triple celling" at a South Carolina Department of Corrections correctional institution, which he claimed was both a security and a health hazard, adequately stated a possible violation of his liberty interest under state law so as to entitle him to a hearing before an administrative law judge. Slezak v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, No. 25887, 605 S.E.2d 506 (S.C. 2004). [N/R]
     Alleged failure of city to alleviate overcrowding in jail, resulting in unsanitary conditions, could possibly be a basis for liability for prisoner's death from bacterial meningitis. Doctor's failure to treat prisoner for this condition, however, did not show deliberate indifference, when he testing the prisoner for meningitis and concluded that he did not have that condition. Brown v. Mitchell, 308 F. Supp. 2d 682 (E.D. Va. 2004). [N/R]
     Federal trial court had continuing jurisdiction over class of county inmates who brought lawsuits over detention facility overcrowding. Inmates who were moved to a new facility after settlement in the case were entitled to a preliminary injunction against restrictions which prevented their lawyer from visiting and restricted his phone calls to five minutes. McClendon v. City of Albuquerque, No. Civ. 95-23-Mv/DJS, 272 F. Supp. 2d 1250 (D. N.M. 2003). [N/R]
     Correctional officer had no right to intervene as a party in litigation alleging that the correctional facility in which he worked had overcrowded and unsafe conditions. His asserted interest in avoiding the risk of future civil liability which might result from the need to take "drastic measures" to maintain order was "purely a matter of speculation" about the occurrence of a "long sequence of" future events. Laube v. Campbell, 217 F.R.D. 655 (M.D. Ala. 2003). [N/R]
     A former Illinois state statute which provided that prisoners should have at least 50 square feet of cell space each did not give an inmate a constitutionally protected right to such living space. Prison officials, therefore, did not violate prisoner's due process rights by assigning him to a cell with another inmate, resulting in each of them having less than 50 square feet each. Court also rejects the argument that the amendment of the statute, 730 ILCS 5/3-7-3, to delete any express reference to a specific per person space requirement increased prisoner's punishment retroactively. Hurst v. Snyder, #02-2891, 63 Fed. Appx. 240 (7th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     Federal trial court did not have authority, under Prison Litigation Reform Act, to enjoin further transfer of female prisoners eligible for state incarceration from county jails to an allegedly overcrowded Alabama state prison, since only a three-judge panel may issue "prisoner release orders," and only under certain circumstances. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626(a)(3). Further, the requested order would conflict with an existing order by a state court in pending litigation in which the state officials had been ordered to accept "state-ready inmates" sent from county jails. At the same time, the defendant prison officials' alleged "lack of funds" did not excuse them from presenting a satisfactory plan to alleviate problems of overcrowding at a state women's prison previously found to violate inmates' Eighth Amendment rights. Laube v. Haley, 242 F. Supp. 2d 1150 (M.D. Ala. 2003). [N/R]
     287:167 Philadelphia federal judge approves settlement in city prison overcrowding case pending for 18 years; further court supervision of city prisons dropped; Prison Litigation Reform Act provisions allowing defendants to move for modification or termination of existing consent decrees, and requiring a finding of current unconstitutional conditions for any prospective relief are cited in judge's order. Harris v. City of Philadelphia, #82-1847, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12579 (E.D. Pa.).
     270:87 State of Alabama found to have avoided any good faith attempt to comply with federal overcrowding lawsuit consent decree; while consent decree was properly dissolved at this point pursuant to provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, attorneys' for plaintiff inmates and for county were entitled to attorneys' fees for attempting enforcement of decree while it was in effect. Chairs v. Burgess, 25 F.Supp.2d 1333 (N.D. Ala. 1998).
     270:88 Double-celling did not constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment or due process when prisoners did not suffer any deprivation of basic human needs as a result. Bolton v. Goord, 992 F.Supp. 604 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).
     246:87 Federal appeals court rules that double-celling, while not "per se" a constitutional violation, was a violation of the Eighth Amendment when cell assignments were done randomly, rather than taking classification information into account, and took place in an institution with a rising incidence of violence. Jensen v. Clarke, 94 F.3d 1191 (8th Cir. 1996)
     247:99 Retroactive revocation of early release credits, granted to Florida prisoner because of prison overcrowding, violated "ex post- facto" prohibition of U.S. Constitution. Lynce v. Mathis, 117 S.Ct. 891 (1997).
     247:99 Oklahoma prisoner released under "preparole conditional supervision program" in order to reduce prison overcrowding could not be returned to prison following denial of formal parole request without a hearing. Young v. Harper, 117 S.Ct. 1148 (1997).
     232:56 Sheriff and warden could not be liable for damages to detainee for county jail's overcrowded condition when they had no authority or funds to build larger facility and no control over the number of prisoners. Houston v. Sheahan, 62 F.3d 902 (7th Cir. 1995).
     [N/R] Alleged overcrowding and use of floor mattresses at juvenile detention facility did not violate juveniles' constitutional due process rights. A.J. By L.B. v. Kierst, 56 F.3d 849 (8th Cir. 1995).
     218:25 Federal appeals court upholds trial judge's injunction limiting population of county jail to its present design capacity (number of bunks). Harris v. Angelina Co., Tex., 31 F.3d 331 (5th Cir. 1994).
     222:89 Prison overcrowding law allowing early release of some prisoners, but excluding certain prisoner categories, did not violate equal protection of law. Keeton v. State of Oklahoma, 32 F.3d 451 (10th Cir. 1994).
     222:89 Federal appeals court rules that trial judge's order imposing jail population cap was improper when based on overcrowding at old smaller jail which had not been used since newer larger jail was built and opened. Doty v. Co. of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540 (9th Cir. 1994).
     224:120 Jail overcrowding consent decree terminated by federal court when conditions that gave rise to it no longer existed; new federal statute mandates reexamination of consent decrees at 2-year intervals. Watts v. McFaul, 158 F.R.D. 598 (N.D. Ohio 1994).
     Double-celling, standing alone, did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375 (4th Cir. 1993).
     Consent decree should not have been modified to allow double-bunking of pretrial detainee without development of adequate record; further proceedings required. Inmates of Suffolk Co. Jail v. Rufo, 12 F.3d 286 (1st Cir. 1993).
     Consent decrees may be modified without showing a "grievous wrong," U.S. Supreme Court adopts "flexible" standard in case involving jail overcrowding. Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Co. Jail, 112 S.Ct. 748 (1992).
     Georgia federal court orders release of detainees because of overcrowding, substandard sanitation and medical care delivery. Fambro v. Fulton Co., Ga., 713 F.Supp. 1426 (N.D. Ga. 1989).
     Michigan state prison officials entitled to qualified immunity in inmate's civil rights action based on overcrowding; were not responsible for lack of funds. Birrell v. Brown, 867 F.2d 956 (6th Cir. 1989).
     Inmate's constitutional rights were not violated by overcrowding which required him to sleep on floor for several days. Castillo v. Bowles, 687 F.Supp. 277 (N.D. Tex. 1988).
     Injury to inmates during riot and fire were caused by overcrowding; amount of damages to be determined. Marsh v. Barry, 705 F.Supp. 12 (D.D.C. 1988).
     U.S. Appeals court upholds ruling that prison officials were not liable for death of woman allegedly murdered by inmate released early because of overcrowding problems. Wells v. Walker, 852 F.2d 368 (8th Cir. 1988).
     Federal appeals court holds that it was improper for trial court to use standards articulated by professional agencies in evaluating constitutionality of prison conditions. Inmates of Occoquan v. Barry, 844 F.2d 828 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
     Consent decree should have been modified to allow doublecelling where state made good-faith attempt to comply but faced unanticipated increase in prisoners. Plyler v. Evat, 846 F.2d 208 (4th Cir. 1988).
     Overcrowded pre-trial detention facility violates due process; daily fines for county if capacity exceeded more than four days. Albro v. Onondaga Co., N.Y., 677 F.Supp. 697 (N.D.N.Y. 1988).
     Prison officials not liable for death of woman allegedly murdered by inmate released early because of overcrowding problems. Wells v. Walker, 671 F.Supp. 624 (E.D. Ark. 1987).
     Kentucky corrections official found in contempt of court order on overcrowding; wardens held not responsible. Tate v. Frey, 673 F.Supp. 880 (W.D. Ken. 1987).
     Crisis of prison overcrowding allows city to build facility without environmental impact statement; court refuses to enjoin construction. Jensen v. Webb, 520 N.Y.S.2d 971 (A.D. 1987).
     Federal court refuses modification of order that inmates be given 35 square feet of living space. Feliciano v. Colon, 672 F.Supp. 627 (D.P.R. 1987).
     "Double-celling", by itself, is not cruel and unusual punishment. Cody v. Hilliard, 830 F.2d 912 (8th Cir. 1987).
     While allegation of overcrowding, standing alone, does not violate eighth amendment, prisoners' complaints of increased stress, tension and communicable diseases stated claim. Akao v. Shimoda, 832 F.2d 119 (9th Cir. 1987).
     Attorney General preliminarily enjoined from sending newly sentenced inmates to overcrowded D.C. prison. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 668 F.Supp. 20 (D.D.C. 1987).
     District attorney denied right to intervene in lawsuit on prison overcrowding. Harris v. Pernsley, 41 CrL 2220 (3rd Cir. 1987).
     New York City granted temporary relief from court order on overcrowding, but court warns "no more" regardless of unforeseeable problems. Benjamin v. Malcolm, 659 F. Sup. 1006 (S.D.N.Y. 1987).
     Tennessee enjoined from incarcerating inmates in overcrowded prisons. Grubbs v. Norris, No. 80-3404 (M.D. Tenn. filed 11/19/85. The information was obtained from the Clearinghouse Review, 2/86.
     Federal court improperly ordered state officials to reduce population. Benjamin v. Malcolm, (S.D. N.Y. 1986), 1/30/86; 38 CrL 2379.
     Prisoner ordered returned to jail in county in which he was to be tried. Cleveland v. Goin, 703 P.2d 204 (Or. 1985).
     Using City Lockup for female county inmates violated court order. Inmates of Allegheny Co. Jail v. Wecht, 612 F.Supp. 874 (D.C. Pa. 1985).
     Co. has authority to transfer state prisoners to state institution when overcrowded. Co. of Allegheny, 490 A.2d 402 (Pa. 1985).
     Court praises city of St. Louis officials in handling housing of pretrial detainees. Tyler v. United States, 602 F.Supp. 476 (E.D. Mo. 1984).
     Overcrowding solutions considered by correctional association include outside work programs. Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, 1/18/85.
     Court orders preliminary injunction to keep prison open, despite overcrowding. Mitchell v. Cuomo, 748 F.2d 804 (2nd Cir. 1984).
     Sheriff had authority to transfer detainees out of overcrowded jail. Adams v. Meloni, 472 N.E.2d 319 (N.Y. 1984).
     State correctional facility not compelled to accept inmates from overcrowded county jail. Co. of Allegheny v. Com., 480 A.2d 1330 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1984).
     No liability for inadequate protection to pretrial detainees in overcrowding prison system. Pinto v. Nettleship, 737 F.2d 130 (1st Cir. 1984).
     Attempt to reduce inmate population unconstitutional. Kent Pros. v. Kent Sheriff, 350 N.W.2d 298 (Mich. App. 1984).
     Inmates awarded $210,000 for unconstitutional conditions; state not liable for overcrowding at county jail. McElveen v. Co. of Prince William, 725 F.2d 954 (4th Cir. 1984).
     Cramped sleeping quarters for detainees not unconstitutional even though they did not meet local standards. Bradford v. Gardner, 578 F.Supp. 382 (E.D. Tenn. 1984).
     Conditions set forth regarding double-celling, outdoor exercise, and food for prisoners in administrative segregation. Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1984).
     Double-bunking not prohibited. Bowen v. State Com'n. of Correction, 461 N.Y.S.2d 668 (App. 1983).
     District courts order to relieve overcrowding at county jail was improper and reversed by appellate court. Union Co. Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d 984 (3rd Cir. 1983).
     Double-celling of pretrial detainees is limited. Campbell v. McGruder, 554 F.Supp. 562 (D.D.C. 1982).
     Federal appellate court reversed lower court's decision and ruled that housing two prisoners in a single cell was not cruel and unusual punishment. Smith v. Fairman, 690 F.2d 122 (7th Cir. 1982); reversing 528 F.Supp. 186 (C.D. Ill. 1981).
     Federal appeals court rules that inmate's double-celling did not violate the ex post facto clause and was not cruel and unusual punishment. Glynn v. Augur, 678 F.2d 760 (8th Cir. 1982).
     Virginia Federal Court orders immediate end to overcrowding in county jail. Gross v. Tazewell Co. Jail, 533 F.Supp. (W.D. Va. 1982).
     Arizona Supreme Court orders Director of Corrections to accept convicted felons from three counties; pending federal overcrowding suit held not a defense. Maricopa Co. v. State of Arizona, 616 P.2d 37 (Ariz. 1980).
     No cruel and unusual punishment when inmates are doublecelled in a reasonable manner. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 101 S.Ct. 2392 (1981).
     New York City jail fails to reduce population to comply with its own stipulation; court finds conditions unconstitutional and orders a population reduction. Benjamin v. Malcolm, 495 F.Supp. 1357 (S.D. N.Y. 1980).
     Federal judge holds that overcrowded conditions at Oregon State prisons amount to cruel and unusual punishment; orders reduction of prison populations to permissible levels. Capps v. Atiyeh, 495 F.Supp. 802 (D. Ore. 1980).
     Federal court finds overcrowding at Connecticut prison to be constitutionally intolerable. Lareau v. Manson, 570 F Supp. 1177 (D.C. Conn. 1980); on appeal, court orders reduction in number of pretrial detainees, 651 F.2d 96 (2nd Cir. 1981).
     Ninth Circuit finds further hearing to be necessary on proposed plan for future use of Idaho Co. jail; facility found to be overcrowded, lacking adequate food service and fire hazard. Leeds v. Watson, 630 F.2d 674 (9th Cir. 1980).
     Court finds Las Vegas jail conditions unconstitutional; order reduction in inmate population. West v. Lamb, 497 F.Supp. 989 (D. Nev. 1980).

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