257 F.Supp. 674 (N.D.Cal. 1966), 44786, Jordan v. Fitzharris

Docket Nº:44786.
Citation:257 F.Supp. 674
Party Name:Robert Charles JORDAN, Jr., Plaintiff, v. C. J. FITZHARRIS et al., Defendants.
Case Date:September 06, 1966
Court:United States District Courts, 9th Circuit, Northern District of California
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 674

257 F.Supp. 674 (N.D.Cal. 1966)

Robert Charles JORDAN, Jr., Plaintiff,

v.

C. J. FITZHARRIS et al., Defendants.

No. 44786.

United States District Court, N.D. California, Southern Division.

Sept. 6, 1966

Page 675

Charles B. Cohler, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiff.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen. of California, by Robert R. Granucci, John Oakes, Deputy Attys. Gen., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE B. HARRIS, Chief Judge.

This is a civil rights action in which the plaintiff claims to have been unconstitutionally subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. The action is brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3) and 1986; the Court's jurisdiction is had under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. Plaintiff prays for injunctive and monetary relief.

Plaintiff Robert Charles Jordan, Jr., is an inmate of the California Correctional Training Facility at Soledad. Named as defendants are the State of California, the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad, the Director of Corrections of the State of California, the Superintendent of the facility at Soledad, and various subordinate officials at Soledad. 1

The action was initially begun by the plaintiff acting on his own behalf and proceeding in forma pauperis. Thereafter, the court appointed Charles B. Cohler, Esq., of San Francisco, to represent Mr. Jordan in all further proceedings. Mr. Cohler's commendable zeal and devotion to the cause of the indigent

Page 676

plaintiff in large measure made possible the successful result.

Plaintiff's cruel and unusual punishment contention arises out of his confinement from July 9 until July 20, 1965, in a so-called 'strip cell' at Soledad. The strip cells (6 in number) form part of the isolation section of the prison's maximum-security Adjustment Center. 2 Each strip cell measures approximately 6'-0" by 8'-4". The side and rear walls are solid concrete, as is the floor. The front wall is constructed of steel bars covered by a metal screen. Access is gained through a sliding barred door. A second front wall is located 2'-10" from the barred wall, thus forming a kind of vestibule between the cell proper and the corridor. Set into this otherwise solid wall are a 24' X 36' barred and screened window opening and a hinged steel door with a 12' X 18' barred and screened window opening. The window openings in this outer wall and outer door can be closed off by means of a metal flap which is hinged at the bottom of each window and can be swung up and latched at the top of the window opening. Immediately outside of this outer wall is an 8'-7 1/2" wide corridor which runs past the six strip cells, through a barred barrier with a locked door, past the eighteen isolation cells, through a 'sally port' (a small rectangular, barred enclosure having two locked doors) and into another corridor where it terminates. In this latter corridor is located the officers' area. Thus the strip cells are placed at the opposite end of the wing from the officers' area and an officer must pass through three locked doors to get from his area to the strip cells. Across the corridor from the strip cells is the outer wall of the wing. This wall has barred windows which formerly contained glass but now are partially covered by sheet metal.

The interiors of the strip cells are entirely devoid of furnishings except as follows: Four of the strip cells have an ordinary commode toilet encased in concrete. The remaining two strip cells have a so-called 'Oriental' toilet, i.e., a hole in the floor. 3 None of the toilets can be flushed by the occupant of the cell, but must be flushed from outside the cell by an officer or an inmate porter. The flushing mechanism is located in a tunnel immediately behind the row of strip cells.

Heat and ventilation are supplied to the strip cells through two ducts located high on the rear walls of the cells. The cells have no interior source of light. When the flaps on the outer wall are closed the cells are totally dark except for such light as may seep in through the cracks around the flaps and the outer door.

The strip cells, as described above, are the most secure and have the least facilities of any cells in the facility at Soledad. They represent the most extreme form of confinement the institution has to offer.

Plaintiff testified, and the records indicate, that he was placed in a strip cell on the evening of Friday, July 9, 1965. He remained continuously in the cell until the morning of Tuesday, July 20, 1965, except for a brief period on Tuesday, July 13, when he was removed from the cell, taken to a hearing before the Disciplinary Committee, and returned to the cell.

The amended complaint filed by Jordan, through his appointed counsel, particularized his grievances and charged substantially as follows:

On or about July 9, 1965, plaintiff was placed in a special punishment unit at the Correctional Training Facility, known as a 'strip cell' (hereinafter referred to as 'strip cell'). Plaintiff was continuously confined in solitary confinement in said strip cell for twelve consecutive days.

* * *

* * *

Page 677

During plaintiff's confinement in said strip cell, plaintiff was forced to remain in said strip cell with said flaps and door of the second wall closed. As a result, plaintiff was deprived of light and ventilation for twelve days, except that twice a day the door of the second wall was opened for approximately fifteen minutes.

The interior of said strip cell is without any facilities, except that there is a raised concrete platform at the rear of the cell containing a hold to receive bodily wastes. There is no mechanism within the cell for 'flushing' bodily wastes from this hole. 'Flushing' is controlled by personnel of the Correctional Training Facility from the exterior of said strip cell. The hole was only 'flushed' at approximately 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on some of the twelve days plaintiff was confined in said strip cell.

During plaintiff's confinement in said strip cell, the strip cell was never cleaned. As a result of the continuous state of filth to which plaintiff was subjected, plaintiff was often nauseous and vomited, and the vomit was never cleaned from the plaintiff's cell. When plaintiff was first brought to the strip cell, the floor and walls of the strip cell were covered with the bodily wastes of previous inhabitants of the strip cell. Plaintiff is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that said strip cell had not been cleaned for at least thirty days before plaintiff was confined therein.

Plaintiff was forced to remain in said strip cell for twelve days without any means of cleaning his hands, body or teeth. No means was provided which could enable plaintiff to clean any part of his body at any time. Plaintiff was forced to handle and eat his food without even the semblance of cleanliness or any provision for sanitary conditions.

For the first eight days of plaintiff's confinement in said strip cell, plaintiff was not permitted clothing of any nature and was forced to remain in said strip cell absolutely naked. Thereafter, plaintiff was given a pair of rough overalls only.

Plaintiff was forced to remain in said strip cell with no place to sleep but upon the cold concrete floor of the strip cell, except that a stiff canvas mat approximately 4 1/2 feet by 5 1/2 feet was provided. Said mat was so stiff that it could not be folded to cover plaintiff without such conscious exertion by plaintiff that sleep was impossible. Plaintiff is six feet and one inch tall and could not be adequately covered by said stiff canvas mat even when holding said mat over himself. The strip cell was not heated during the time that plaintiff was forced to remain there.

Plaintiff is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that plaintiff has been and may be subjected to confinement in said strip cell without the authorization of the Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent, the Associate Superintendent, or anyone of comparable administrative rank; that lower-rank personnel of the Correctional Training Facility purport to have exercised and intend to exercise in the future broad discretion in confining plaintiff in said strip cell; that said lower-rank personnel purport to have the discretion to confine plaintiff in said strip cell for 60 consecutive days; and that there are no standards for the proper exercise of such discretion.

On many occasions prior to July 9, 1965, plaintiff has been confined in said strip cell, plaintiff is continually living under the threat of repeated confinement in said strip cell, and plaintiff is constantly subject to confinement in said strip cell pursuant to purported disciplinary procedures as they presently exist and will continue to exist unless enjoined by this Court.

Plaintiff has been denied adequate medical care prior to, during, and subsequent to said confinement in said strip cell, despite repeated oral and

Page 678

written requests for same made in good faith by or on behalf of plaintiff.

Prior to and subsequent to said confinement in said strip cell, plaintiff has been forced to endure confinement in 'O Wing' of the Correctional Training Facility without adequate protection from the raw outdoor elements, in that plaintiff's cell front offers no protection from the elements, being only bars, there are no window panes for the large window openings in the outside wall of the corridor which is directly outside plaintiff's cell, and there is insufficient artificial heat, if any, to combat the outdoor climatic conditions which prevail in plaintiff's cell.

Jordan, called as a witness on his own behalf, gave testimony which fortified the foregoing allegations. He testified categorically concerning the practices engaged in by the defendants. He was subjected to a lengthy and searching cross-examination by the two attorneys representing the defendants. His testimony is clear and...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP