889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D.Cal. 1995), C90-3094, Madrid v. Gomez

Docket Nº:C90-3094-TEH.
Citation:889 F.Supp. 1146
Party Name:Alejandro MADRID, et al., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. James GOMEZ, Director, California Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:January 10, 1995
Court:United States District Courts, 9th Circuit, Northern District of California
 
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889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D.Cal. 1995)

Alejandro MADRID, et al., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,

v.

James GOMEZ, Director, California Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.

No. C90-3094-TEH.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Jan. 10, 1995

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Bruce G. Vanyo, David S. Steuer, Susan Abouchar Creighton, Bernard J. Cassidy, J. Peter Shearer, Robert Fabela, Sarah A. Good, Joanne Scully, Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto, CA, Donald Specter, Steven Fama, Arnold Erickson, Heather McKay, Prison Law Office, General Delivery, San Quentin, CA, for plaintiffs.

Peter J. Siggins, Deputy Atty. Gen., Susan Duncan Lee, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, CA, for James Rowland, Charles D. Marshall.

Paul D. Gifford, Peter J. Siggins, Susan Duncan Lee, Deputy Attys. Gen., Jennifer A. Moss, George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Daniel E. Lungren, CA Atty. Gen., San Francisco, CA, for T.K. Boyll.

Richard H. Caulfield, Michael M. McKone, Caulfield, Davies & Donahue, Sacramento, CA, for Mark Bray.

FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND ORDER

THELTON E. HENDERSON, Chief Judge.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

I. Introduction .................................................... 1155

II. Findings of Fact

A. Excessive Force ............................................ 1159

B. Medical Health Care ........................................ 1200

C. Mental Health Care ......................................... 1214

D. Conditions in the Security Housing Unit .................... 1227

E. Cell Housing Practices ..................................... 1237

F. Segregation of Prison Gang Affiliates ...................... 1240

III. Conclusions of Law

A. Eighth Amendment Overview .................................. 1244

B. Excessive Force ............................................ 1247

C. Medical and Mental Health Care ............................. 1255

D. Conditions in the Security Housing Unit .................... 1260

E. Cell Housing Practices ..................................... 1267

F. Segregation of Prison Gang Affiliates ...................... 1270

IV. Summary ......................................................... 1279

V. Appropriate Relief and Further Proceedings ...................... 1280

Appendix A (Glossary of Terms) ......................................... 1283


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I.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs represent a class of all prisoners who are, or will be, incarcerated by the State of California Department of Corrections at Pelican Bay State Prison, which is located in the remote northwest corner of California, seven miles northeast of Crescent City and 363 miles north of San Francisco. Pursuant to the civil rights statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1 plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of a broad range of conditions and practices that intimately affect almost every facet of their prison life. They seek redress from the Court in the form of injunctive and declaratory relief.

Although referred to in the singular, Pelican Bay State Prison ("Pelican Bay") actually consists of three completely separate facilities. The first is a maximum security prison which houses approximately 2,000 "general population" maximum security inmates. The daily routine for these inmates is comparable to that in other maximum security prisons in California. The second is the Security Housing Unit, commonly referred to as the "SHU." Located in a completely separate complex inside the security perimeter, the SHU has gained a well-deserved reputation as a place which, by design, imposes conditions far harsher than those anywhere else in the California prison system. The roughly 1,000-1,500 inmates confined in the SHU remain isolated in windowless cells for 22 and 1/2 hours each day, and are denied access to prison work programs and group exercise yards. Assignment to the SHU is not based on the inmate's underlying offense; rather, SHU cells are reserved for those inmates in the California prison system who become affiliated with a prison gang or commit serious disciplinary infractions once in prison. They represent, according to a phrase coined by defendants, "the worst of the worst." Finally, there is a small minimum security facility that houses approximately 200 prisoners. All in all, there are between 3,500 and 3,900 prisoners confined at Pelican Bay on any given day.

Just over five years old, Pelican Bay was activated on December 1, 1989. Considered a "prison of the future," the buildings are modern in design, and employ cutting-edge technology and security devices. This, then, is not a case about inadequate or deteriorating physical conditions. There are no rat-infested cells, antiquated buildings, or unsanitary supplies. Rather, plaintiffs contend that behind the newly-minted walls and shiny equipment lies a prison that is coldly indifferent to the limited, but basic and elemental, rights that incarcerated persons--including "the worst of the worst"--retain under the

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First, Eighth, and Fourteenth amendments of our United States Constitution. In particular, plaintiffs allege that defendants (1) condone a pattern and practice of using excessive force against inmates, (2) fail to provide inmates with adequate medical care, (3) fail to provide inmates with adequate mental health care, (4) impose inhumane conditions in the Security Housing Unit, (5) utilize cell-assignment procedures that expose inmates to an unreasonable risk of assault from other inmates, (6) fail to provide adequate procedural safeguards when segregating prison gang affiliates in the Security Housing Unit, and (7) fail to provide inmates with adequate access to the courts.

Named in their official capacity as defendants are Pelican Bay Warden Charles Marshall, Chief Deputy Warden Terry Peetz, Chief Medical Officer A.M. Astorga, and James Gomez, Director of the California Department of Corrections ("CDC"). 2 They deny that any of plaintiffs' allegations have merit, and assert that Pelican Bay operates well within constitutional limits in each of the areas outlined above. Moreover, they argue, Pelican Bay, and the SHU in particular, does exactly what it was designed to do: it isolates the most brutal and disruptive elements of the inmate population while reducing violence in California state prisons overall.

The case was tried before the Court between September 14 and December 1, 1993. Immediately prior to the trial, the Court spent two days touring Pelican Bay, accompanied by counsel for both parties and prison officials. During the course of the trial, the Court heard testimony from 57 lay witnesses, including class members, defendants, and correctional employees at all levels. It also received into evidence over 6,000 exhibits, including documents, tape recordings, and photographs, as well as thousands of pages of deposition excerpts. 3

The Court recognizes that neither the inmates at Pelican Bay nor the Department of Corrections personnel can be considered neutral witnesses. For reasons that are self-evident, class members, as well as defendants and other prison staff, are interested in the outcome of the case. We also take into account the undeniable presence of a "code of silence" at Pelican Bay. As the evidence clearly shows, this unwritten but widely understood code is designed to encourage prison employees to remain silent regarding the improper behavior of their fellow employees, particularly where excessive force has been alleged. Those who defy the code risk retaliation and harassment. 4 We have considered

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all of the above, as well as the manner and demeanor of the witnesses, in assessing witness credibility and making our factual findings.

The Court was also aided by the testimony of ten experts in the areas of medicine, psychiatry, psychology, and prison management and operation. 5 With respect to the claims regarding excessive force and cell assignment practices, plaintiffs presented three experts: Charles Fenton, a former warden of two maximum security prisons, 6 Steve Martin, who spent more than 20 years working in varying capacities for the Texas Department of Corrections, 7 and Vince Nathan, who has worked for nearly 20 years as a court-appointed monitor and expert in prison cases. 8

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Defendants presented two experts: Daniel McCarthy, who worked for almost 40 years in varying capacities for the California Department of Corrections, most recently as its Director, 9 and Larry DuBois, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. 10

With respect to the claims concerning medical care, mental health care, and conditions in the SHU, plaintiffs presented Dr. Armond Start, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and former director of health care services for the Oklahoma and Texas prison systems, 11 Dr. Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School and expert on the effects of solitary confinement, 12 and Dr. Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who has specialized in the psychological effects of incarceration. 13 Defendants

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presented Dr. Jay Harness, a professor of surgery at the University of California at Davis and former director of health care services for the Michigan prison system, 14 and Dr. Joel Dvoskin, a clinical...

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