597 F.Supp. 1388 (N.D.Cal. 1984), C-73-1422 SAW, Toussaint v. McCarthy

Docket Nº:C-73-1422 SAW.
Citation:597 F.Supp. 1388
Party Name:Joseph TOUSSAINT, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Daniel J. McCARTHY, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:October 18, 1984
Court:United States District Courts, 9th Circuit, Northern District of California

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597 F.Supp. 1388 (N.D.Cal. 1984)

Joseph TOUSSAINT, et al., Plaintiffs,


Daniel J. McCARTHY, et al., Defendants.

No. C-73-1422 SAW.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Oct. 18, 1984

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Sidney M. Wolinsky, Anita Arriola, Public Advocates, Inc., Morris J. Baller, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, James C. Sturdevant, Law Offices of James C. Sturdevant, Bernard Zimmerman, Sarah Flanagan, Mark A. Chavez, Sanford Jay Rosen, Ellen Sue Goldblatt, Barbara Y. Phillips, Law Offices of Sanford Jay Rosen, San Francisco, Cal., Donald H. Specter, Michael Satris, Prison Law Office, San Quentin, Cal., Jack Greenberg, Deborah Fins, New York City, for plaintiffs.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., of the State of Cal., Karl S. Mayer, Thomas P. Dove, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, Cal., for defendants.

WEIGEL, Senior District Judge.



The following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law underlie the Court's decision on the merits of a class action challenging the legality of conditions of confinement for prisoners held in administrative segregation--hereafter referred to as "segregation"--in the California State Prison at San Quentin ("San Quentin") and the California State Prison at Folsom ("Folsom"). 1 The lengthy history of the litigation was recounted in some detail in connection with the preliminary injunction entered in this case on January 14, 1983, see Toussaint v. Rushen, 553 F.Supp. 1365, 1367-69 (N.D.Cal.1983) ,

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vacated in part, 722 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir.1984), and need not be repeated here. The preliminary injunction was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit on January 5, 1984, except for one portion dealing with food service, which was vacated because unsupported by specific findings. Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir.1984).

The first phase of trial on the merits commenced in this Court on November 7, 1983. It was limited to conditions at the San Quentin and Folsom prisons largely because of representations made by defendants that segregation at Soledad and Tracy would soon be discontinued. Trial lasted nearly two months. More than 65 witnesses testified. There are well over 1000 trial exhibits. The transcript is 4643 pages long. In addition, the Court, accompanied by counsel for both sides, inspected the premises at San Quentin.

The findings and conclusions which follow are based upon the Court's independent review of all the evidence as well as upon consideration of the findings and conclusions proposed by both sides. As detailed below, the Court finds and concludes that conditions of confinement for segregated inmates at San Quentin and Folsom violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and that relief previously ordered in this case to correct constitutional violations has not been fully effective. 2 The Court accordingly renders a Judgment of Permanent Injunction ordering termination of the unlawful conduct of defendants and providing for the appointment of a Special Master to monitor compliance.

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments." The ultimate question in this case is whether the defendants, officials of the State of California, have violated this prohibition by confining prisoners under the conditions that obtain in segregation units at San Quentin and Folsom. To answer this question is difficult, because no static "test" can be formulated to determine whether conditions of confinement are "cruel and unusual." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2399, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981). Rather, the meaning of the Eighth Amendment prohibition is to be drawn "from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Id.; Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101, 78 S.Ct. 590, 598, 2 L.Ed.2d 630 (1958) (plurality opinion). Ordinarily, the Court's judgment as to the nature of these standards should be governed to the maximum possible extent by objective indicia of what the general public would consider decent. 3 See Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346, 101 S.Ct. at 2399; Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir.1982). But public perceptions are not alone conclusive. In the cogent words of Chief Justice Warren, "[t]he basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man." Trop, 356 U.S. at 100, 78 S.Ct. at 597; see Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 178, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 2927, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976) (plurality opinion).

In the context of cases challenging prison conditions, courts in this circuit and others have commented that "[a]n institution's obligation under the eighth amendment is at an end if it furnishes sentenced prisoners with adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and personal safety." Hoptowit, 682 F.2d at 1246; Wright v. Rushen, 642 F.2d 1129, 1132-33 (9th Cir.1981); Wolfish v. Levi, 573 F.2d 118, 125 (2d Cir.1978), rev'd on other grounds, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979); see also Newman v. State of Alabama, 559 F.2d 283, 286 (5th Cir.1977) ,

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rev'd in part on other grounds sub nom. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114 (1978). Of course, this enumeration is not necessarily exhaustive. For example, it is settled that prisoners may not be deprived of all exercise, because "some form of regular outdoor exercise is extremely important to the psychological and physical well-being of the inmates." Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 189, 199 (9th Cir.1979) (citing cases); Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1152 & n. 173 (5th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1042, 103 S.Ct. 1438, 75 L.Ed.2d 795 (1983); Martino v. Carey, 563 F.Supp. 984, 1001 (D.Ore.1983).

The task before the Court is to examine each specific challenged condition of confinement and to determine whether that condition, in the context of the overall prison environment, comports with human decency. Wright v. Rushen, 642 F.2d at 1133. If found indecent, the condition must be remedied. However, the relief granted must be only so much as is required to correct the specific deficiency. Hoptowit, 682 F.2d at 1247; Wright, 642 F.2d at 1134.


1. San Quentin and Folsom are among the oldest penal institutions still in use in the United States today. San Quentin first opened in 1853; Folsom in 1880. The buildings presently used to house the majority of segregated inmates are relatively old and outmoded five-tier cell blocks constructed between 1910 and 1934. 4 Segregated inmates are also housed in two more modern buildings, SHU I at Folsom and the "Adjustment Center" at San Quentin. The latter was built in 1959 and 1960.

2. The class of plaintiffs in this action is defined principally by reference to the percentage of each day that they are required to spend in their cells. 5 The term "segregated inmate" means, at bottom, one who is not permitted to mingle with the general prison population. To accomplish segregation, prison officials at San Quentin and Folsom lock inmates in their cells on a round-the-clock basis. Under this system, segregated inmates are allowed out of their cells only for essential activities such as showers, exercise, visits, medical treatment and classification hearings. During all such excursions, segregated inmates are made to wear handcuff restraints except when they are actually showering, exercising or contact visiting. In the record and in these findings, this form of confinement is referred to interchangeably as "segregation" or "lockup."

3. According to a former warden, approximately 2100 inmates are typically held in segregated confinement at San Quentin at any one time. Upwards of 500 are so held at Folsom. Credible testimony presented at trial disclosed that the concentrated confinement of such large numbers of segregated inmates is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, in the history of American corrections.

4. The reasons why inmates are assigned segregated status at San Quentin and Folsom vary. Formally, they may be placed in three categories. First, inmates are segregated as punishment for disciplinary rule infractions. This sort of lockup is commonly referred to as "segregated housing" or "SHU". Second, inmates are segregated because of an institutional perception that they pose a threat to the safety of other inmates or staff, or to the security of the institution. This type of

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lockup is sometimes called "management control." Third, inmates are segregated because of a perception that the inmates themselves may be harmed by other inmates if they must mingle in the general population. This variety of lockup is sometimes called "protective housing."

5. In addition, there is a fourth term used to describe a form of segregated status: "Administrative segregation." Although sometimes used as a catch-all to refer to lockup generally, "administrative segregation" technically refers only to a temporary status to which an inmate is assigned for a period of up to 30 days pending a determination of whether he should be assigned more permanent "segregated" status for one of the three reasons listed above. Evidence at trial showed that many or most prisoners newly arriving at San Quentin or Folsom are initially placed in "administrative segregation" for a period of "orientation."

6. Present policies of the California Department of Corrections call for the housing at San Quentin and Folsom of "Level IV" inmates. These are inmates classified as requiring the highest level of security in custody, based on their precommitment history, commitment offense, term of imprisonment, and other case factors. 6 Most...

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