34 F.3d 266 (4th Cir. 1994), 94-6359, Taylor v. Freeman

Docket Nº:94-6359.
Citation:34 F.3d 266
Party Name:Isreal TAYLOR; Dannon Mourfield; Donald Guy; Wayne Moore; and Jimmy Jordan, Plaintiffs Appellees, v. Franklin FREEMAN, Secretary of the Department of Correction; Lynn C. Phillips, Director of the Division of Prisons; Michael Bumgarner, Youth Services Command Manager; and Carol C. Stamey, Superintendent of Morrison Youth Institution, Defendants Appe
Case Date:September 09, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 266

34 F.3d 266 (4th Cir. 1994)

Isreal TAYLOR; Dannon Mourfield; Donald Guy; Wayne Moore;

and Jimmy Jordan, Plaintiffs Appellees,

v.

Franklin FREEMAN, Secretary of the Department of Correction;

Lynn C. Phillips, Director of the Division of Prisons;

Michael Bumgarner, Youth Services Command Manager; and

Carol C. Stamey, Superintendent of Morrison Youth

Institution, Defendants Appellants.

No. 94-6359.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

September 9, 1994

Argued July 18, 1994.

Page 267

ARGUED: Jane Ray Garvey, Office of the Atty. Gen. of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, for appellants. Marvin Ray Sparrow, North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Raleigh, NC, for appellees. ON BRIEF: William McBlief, Office of the Atty. Gen. of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, for appellants. Kathryn L. VandenBerg, North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Raleigh, NC, for appellees.

Before WILKINSON, LUTTIG, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Vacated by published opinion. Judge LUTTIG wrote the opinion, in which Judge WILKINSON and Judge WILLIAMS joined.

LUTTIG, Circuit Judge:

On motion by appellees Isreal Taylor and other inmates incarcerated at North Carolina's Morrison Youth Institution, the federal district court in the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a mandatory preliminary injunction on March 23 ordering prison officials at Morrison "to take the following actions by May 30, 1994":

1. Reduce the total inmate population at Morrison Youth Institution to 205 inmates, or less, and thereafter, maintain such number until the final resolution of this action. Specifically, the institution is to house no more than one individual in any single cell, and to limit the inmate population of each dormitory to the following numbers:

Aggrey, A Dorm 42 Aggrey, B Dorm 42 Bost, A Dorm 10 Bost, B Dorm 10 Bost, C Dorm 8 Bost, D Dorm 8 Edwards, A Dorm 14 Edwards, B Dorm 14 Edwards, C Dorm 14 Edwards, D Dorm 14 Edwards, E Dorm 14 2. Create and staff six new correctional officer posts, one each in A and B dorms of Aggrey building, two in Bost building, and two in Edwards building;

3. Cease the use of Bost C and D dormitories or any other dormitory housing for the use of disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation, or protective custody;

4. Devise and present to the court a plan for providing the amount of square

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feet required by the 1994 Supplement to the American Correctional Association Standards for inmates transferred from Morrison as a result of this order.

Defendants are ordered to reduce the population by at least twenty inmates by April 15, 1994. The defendants are further to continue such reduction by at least twenty inmates twice a month (i.e., April 30, May 15, concluding on May 30, 1994) until the population is sufficiently reduced. Such reduction must be concluded by May 30, 1994.

Order at 7-8. The trial on the merits of the inmates' claims that Morrison is unconstitutionally overcrowded and that inmates are subject to a constitutionally unacceptable level of inmate-on-inmate violence is scheduled to begin later this month.

We immediately stayed the district court's order and expedited consideration of the prison officials' appeal from the order of preliminary injunction. We now vacate that order in its entirety.

I.

It is well established that absent the most extraordinary circumstances, federal courts are not to immerse themselves in the management of state prisons or substitute their judgment for that of the trained penological authorities charged with the administration of such facilities. As the District of Columbia Circuit observed in Inmates of Occoquan v. Barry, 844 F.2d 828 (D.C.Cir.1988), "in carrying out their remedial task, courts are not to be in the business of running prisons. The cases make it plain that questions of prison administration are to be left to the discretion of prison administrators." Id. at 841; see also Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2400, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981) ("[C]onsiderations [of appropriate prison management] properly are weighed by the legislature and prison administration rather than a court."); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1886, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979) (disapproving trend of courts becoming "increasingly enmeshed in the minutiae of prison operations"); Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84-85, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 2259-60, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987). Addressing the concerns of federal judicial competence and comity that underlie this fundamental principle of federal judicial restraint, the Supreme Court explained in Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974), that,

[t]raditionally, federal courts have adopted a broad hands-off attitude toward problems of prison administration.... [T]his attitude springs from complementary perceptions about the nature of the problems and the efficacy of judicial intervention.... Suffice it to say that the 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. Moreover, where state penal institutions are involved, federal courts have another reason for deference to the appropriate prison authorities. 1

Id. at 404-05, 94 S.Ct. at 1807 (footnote omitted). Focusing on the comity concern, the Court observed in Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973), that,

[i]t is difficult to imagine an activity in which a State has a stronger interest, or one that is more intricately bound up with state laws, regulations, and procedures, than the administration of its prisons..... The strong considerations of comity that require giving a state court system that has convicted a defendant the first opportunity

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to correct its own errors thus also require giving the States the first opportunity to correct the errors made in the internal administration of their prisons.

Id. at 491-92, 93 S.Ct. at 1837 (footnote omitted).

Even where there has been a finding on the merits that unconstitutional conditions exist, federal courts should proceed cautiously and incrementally in ordering remediation so as not to assume the role of prison administrators. See, e.g., United States v. Michigan, 940 F.2d 143, 167-68 (6th Cir.1991) ("[I]t was incumbent upon the district court in the action sub judice to impose the least intrusive remedies available.... The trial court, having acknowledged the teachings of the Supreme Court addressing state penal institutional administration, was remiss in not fashioning its disposition in accordance with those directional dictates."); Cody v. Hillard, 799 F.2d 447, 449 (8th Cir.1986) (district court found numerous constitutional violations yet initially ordered only that prison officials "prepare plans to cure the constitutional violations" for submission to the court); Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1127 (5th Cir.1982) (after 159 days of trial, over the course of which 349 witnesses testified, district court did not immediately enter a remedial order, but provided parties an opportunity to formulate consent decree); Fisher v. Koehler, 692 F.Supp. 1519, 1565, 1567 (S.D.N.Y.1988) (after finding that "both inmate-inmate violence and staff-inmate violence at [the prison] have reached proportions which...

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