AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for
Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
Back to list of subjects Back to Legal Publications Menu
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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]
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
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).
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).
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)
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
standing alone, did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Strickler v.
Waters, 989 F.2d 1375 (4th Cir. 1993).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
by itself, is not cruel and unusual punishment. Cody v. Hilliard, 830 F.2d 912
(8th Cir. 1987).
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).
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).
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).
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.
improperly ordered state officials to reduce population. Benjamin v. Malcolm,
(S.D. N.Y. 1986), 1/30/86; 38 CrL 2379.
returned to jail in county in which he was to be tried. Cleveland v. Goin, 703
P.2d 204 (Or. 1985).
Lockup for female county inmates violated court order. Inmates of Allegheny Co.
Jail v. Wecht, 612 F.Supp. 874 (D.C. Pa. 1985).
authority to transfer state prisoners to state institution when overcrowded.
Co. of Allegheny, 490 A.2d 402 (Pa. 1985).
city of St. Louis officials in handling housing of pretrial detainees. Tyler v.
United States, 602 F.Supp. 476 (E.D. Mo. 1984).
solutions considered by correctional association include outside work programs.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, 1/18/85.
preliminary injunction to keep prison open, despite overcrowding. Mitchell v.
Cuomo, 748 F.2d 804 (2nd Cir. 1984).
authority to transfer detainees out of overcrowded jail. Adams v. Meloni, 472
N.E.2d 319 (N.Y. 1984).
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).
reduce inmate population unconstitutional. Kent Pros. v. Kent Sheriff, 350
N.W.2d 298 (Mich. App. 1984).
$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).
quarters for detainees not unconstitutional even though they did not meet local
standards. Bradford v. Gardner, 578 F.Supp. 382 (E.D. Tenn. 1984).
forth regarding double-celling, outdoor exercise, and food for prisoners in
administrative segregation. Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1984).
not prohibited. Bowen v. State Com'n. of Correction, 461 N.Y.S.2d 668 (App.
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.
of pretrial detainees is limited. Campbell v. McGruder, 554 F.Supp. 562 (D.D.C.
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.
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).
Court orders immediate end to overcrowding in county jail. Gross v. Tazewell
Co. Jail, 533 F.Supp. (W.D. Va. 1982).
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).
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).
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).
Back to list of subjects Back to Legal Publications Menu