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French v. Owens

decided: November 26, 1985.

RICHARD A. FRENCH, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
NORMAN G. OWENS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS; RICHARD A. FRENCH, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES, V. NORMAN G. OWENS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AMICUS CURIAE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, No. 75 C 677-S. Hugh Dillin, Judge.

Cudahy and Eschbach, Circuit Judges, and Morton, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Cudahy

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana requiring extensive reforms at the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton, Indiana. Defendants, officials of the Reformatory, allege on appeal that the court erred in finding constitutional violations and exceeded its authority in issuing a detailed injunction. We have reviewed the order and affirm most of its provisions. We vacate with respect to several provisions and remand to the district court for further consideration.

I.

Four prisoners at the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton ("the Reformatory" or "Pendleton") filed a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 on behalf of all persons who are or will be in the facility. The suit complained of overcrowding and of the prison's use of mechanical restraints. It protested poor medical care and food, inadequate recreation, discrimination against those in protective custody, insufficient safety personnel and noncompliance with fire and occupational safety standards. After a 16-day trial, the district judge, exercising his pendent jurisdiction, found that many of these conditions violated various provisions of Indiana law. He also found that the practice of double-celling, in concert with other overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, violated the eighth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. French v. Owens, 538 F. Supp. 910 (S.D. Ind. 1982). Therefore, he issued a permanent injunction ordering detailed changes.

Defendants appealed. While the appeal was before this court, the Supreme Court decided Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67, 104 S. Ct. 900 (1984), which held that under the eleventh amendment, federal courts lacked jurisdiction over claims for injunctive relief against state officials based upon state law. In light of Pennhurst, we remanded this case to the district court so it could consider whether the conditions that it had found violated state law also violated federal law.

On remand, the court found that most of the conditions which violated state law, offended the eighth amendment as well. It therefore issued an amended order. That order also accounted for improvements that had been made at the facility over the two-year period since conditions had originally been considered.

Defendants again appeal. The United States has filed an amicus brief stating its position in detail on the various alleged violations and on the remedies prescribed.

II.

"In analyzing a challenge to prison conditions based on the Eighth Amendment, a court should examine each challenged condition of confinement . . . to determine whether that condition is compatible with the 'evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.'" Wright v. Rushen, 642 F.2d 1129, 1133 (9th Cir. 1981) (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101, 2 L. Ed. 2d 630, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958) (plurality opinion)). We therefore examine the specifics of Judge Dillin's order to determine if there have been violations of the eighth amendment and, if so, whether the remedy is appropriate.*fn1

A. Double-Celling

Built in 1923, by 1982 the Pendleton reformatory housed almost 2,000 prisoners, over twice its intended capacity. To accommodate the rise in population, prison officials placed two prisoners in cells that were intended for one. More than one-third of all cells were converted to double cells. After reviewing the record and personally visiting the prison site, Judge Dillin concluded that "rampant" double celling, in conjunction with general conditions of overcrowding, violated the eighth and fourteenth amendments.*fn2

By 1982, the gross available space per man in the double cells was 24 square feet, the net amount approximately half that. In the Administrative Segregation Unit -- where prisoners are kept who need to be separated from the general inmate population -- the ceilings are lower and inmates on the top bunks of double cells are unable to sit up. There is no space for a chair on the floor. As a result, some have developed back problems.

The forty percent of prisoners in double cells spend between 20 and 23 hours per day in these cells. The five per cent of inmates in protective custody leave their cells only for showers, visits and twice-weekly recreation.

Deplorable conditions exist beyond the double-celling problem. All cells and dormitories are inadequately ventilated. There is no means of distributing heat to the cells and, in summertime, no system for circulating air to the cells. Rooms are dirty and odorous. Toilets and lavatories are "virtually uncleanable." Lighting is poor. Cells have no hot water.

Especially in light of the poor supervision, safety, medical care and food preparation at the facility, Judge Dillin found the conditions intolerable. He ordered that the population ...


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