952 F.Supp. 869 (D.Mass. 1997), C. A. 71-162, Inmates of Suffolk County Jail v. Sheriff of Suffolk County

Docket Nº:C. A. 71-162
Citation:952 F.Supp. 869
Party Name:Inmates of Suffolk County Jail v. Sheriff of Suffolk County
Case Date:January 02, 1997
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts

Page 869

952 F.Supp. 869 (D.Mass. 1997)



SHERIFF OF SUFFOLK COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 71-162-REK.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.

Jan. 2, 1997

Page 870

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 871

        Max D. Stern, Lynn G. Weissberg, Stern, Shapiro, Weissberg & Garin, Boston, MA, for Julio Gonzalez, Carlos Manuel Lopez, Stephen Gordon, Rogelio Santiago and Inmates of Suffolk County Jail.

        Chester A. Janiak, Burns & Levinson, Boston, MA, Douglas Wilkins, Attorney General's Office, Boston, MA, for Commissioner of Corrections.

        Thomas O. Bean, Attorney General's Office, Boston, MA, for Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

        Chester A. Janiak, Paul E. Stanzler, Holly A. Ditchfield, Burns & Levinson, Boston, MA, for Robert Rufo.

        Augustus J. Camelio, AFSCME Council 93, AFL-CIO Boston, MA, for American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 93, AFL-CIO.


        KEETON, District Judge.

        Pending before the court are the following motions:

        (1) Motion of the Sheriff of Suffolk County to Terminate All Prospective Relief Within the Meaning of and Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b) (2) (Docket No. 375, filed June 14, 1996); and

        (2) Defendant Commissioner of Correction's Motion to Vacate Consent Decree (Docket No. 378, filed June 24, 1996).

Plaintiffs oppose both motions. The United States of America has intervened and filed a Memorandum of Law of the United States of America with Respect to the Constitutionality of Certain Provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (Docket No. 398, filed September 26, 1996).

        The motions are allowed in part and denied in part.

        I. Procedural Background Preceding the Prison Litigation Reform Act

        The procedural history of this twenty-five-year-old litigation is well documented in many of this and other courts' opinions, most recently in this court's Memoranda and Orders of March 31, 1993, January 25, 1994 and June 14, 1994. This opinion recites only briefly the procedural history and focuses primarily on the most relevant parts of the modified Consent Decree that is the subject of the pending motions.

        The plaintiff class, all pretrial detainees being held in the Suffolk County Jail, brought suit against the defendants in 1971, challenging as unconstitutional the conditions of their confinement. At the time, Suffolk County pretrial detainees were held at the Charles Street Jail, which was built in 1848. Although invoking numerous problems with the aging facilities, the plaintiffs' lawsuit focused especially on the defendants' practice of "double-bunking" inmates in cells designed to hold only one person. In 1973, then presiding Judge Garrity found that the conditions

Page 872

at the Charles Street Jail violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs, ordered a permanent injunction against double-bunking at the jail, and set a date after which no pretrial detainees could be held at the Charles Street Jail.

        After years of substantive and procedural conflict, the parties entered into the Consent Decree on May 7, 1979. The decree was modified on April 11, 1985, April 22, 1985, August 30, 1990, and June 14, 1994. Key provisions of the Consent Decree, as modified, are set forth here.

        May 7, 1979 Consent Decree. Following introductory paragraphs in which the defendants expressed their desire to "fulfill their duties under state and federal law to provide, maintain and operate as applicable a suitable and constitutional jail for Suffolk County pretrial detainees" and the plaintiffs expressed their desire that they "not be exposed to unconstitutional conditions of pretrial confinement," the document declared:

        And whereas all parties desire to avoid further litigation on the issue of what shall be built and what standards shall be applied to construction and design [of the new jail];

        And whereas all parties agree that for the purposes of this litigation the Suffolk County Detention Center, Charles Street Facility, Architectural Program which is attached and, as modified ... below, incorporated in this decree, sets forth a program which is both constitutionally adequate and constitutionally required.

        April 11, 1985 Order Modifying Decree. Having recognized the changed circumstance of an unforeseen magnitude of increase in the jail population, the court in this order granted the plaintiffs' motion to modify the Consent Decree in the following way:

        It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the Consent Decree be modified as follows:

        Nothing contained in the Consent Decree, however, shall prevent the defendants from increasing the capacity of the new facility if the following conditions are satisfied:

        (a) single-cell occupancy is maintained under the design for the facility; [and]

        (b) under the standards and specifications of the Architectural Program, as modified, the relative proportion of cell space to support services will remain the same as it was in the Architectural Program; ....

        August 30, 1990 Order. As the court recognized in its June 14, 1994, Final Order, this Order modified the Consent Decree to the following extent:

        1. Plaintiffs' Motion for Order to Transfer Female Detainees to Nashua Street Jail is allowed.

        2. The Sheriff of Suffolk County and the Commissioner of Correction shall transfer all Suffolk County female pre-trial detainees currently held at MCI-Framingham to the Suffolk County Jail at Nashua Street.

        3. This Order does not prevent the Sheriff from reallocating space within the new facility, as long as the following conditions are satisfied:

         (a) The Sheriff of Suffolk County shall not house more than one detainee in a cell at the new facility.

         (b) The relative proportion of the cell space to support services remains the same as in the Architectural Program attached to the Consent Decree.

         (c) The Sheriff of Suffolk County shall not transfer from the Nashua Street Jail female detainees to other institutions unless more than forty female detainees are committed to his custody, in which event he is not prevented from transferring the number of female detainees necessary to reduce the number of female detainees in the new facility to forty.

        June 14, 1994 Final Order. The Final Order modified the Consent Decree as follows:

        (1) The Consent Decree of May 7, 1979 (as modified by the orders of April 11, 1985, April 22, 1985, and August 30, 1990) is further modified to the extent that, and only to the extent that, as long as no inmates other than Suffolk County pretrial

Page 873

detainees are assigned to the Nashua Street facility, the Sheriff

(a) may alter up to 100 cells to permit double occupancy, and

(b) may, at any given time, place two inmates in each of the altered cells to the extent necessary to have space within the Nashua Street facility for all Suffolk County pretrial detainees committed to the Sheriff's care.

In the Final Order, the court also "permitted" the Sheriff to act in accordance with an agreement between the parties. In pertinent part, the agreement forbade the use of the "House of Detention" or the "City Prison" in the Suffolk County Courthouse to house pretrial detainees, and required the Sheriff to report the need, in the case of an emergency, to use any facility other than the Nashua Street Jail to house the plaintiff inmates.

        The agreement allowed the Sheriff to hold female members of the plaintiff class at the Suffolk County House of Correction, with a cap on the number of female detainees that could be held there and a limit on the number of cells in which the female detainees could be double-bunked. Under this part of the agreement, any cells made available by the transfer of female detainees from the Nashua Street Jail were to be used for single-cell occupancy by male inmates.

        Finally, the June 14, 1994 Final Order contained the following directives regarding the eventual closing of the case:

(3) This civil action, though not finally closed as of entry of this order, remains open for limited purposes only. The court will hear a motion by any party for further proceedings upon a showing of good cause, for example, upon a prima facie showing of noncompliance with the court's order, or upon a showing of material change in circumstances after the date of entry of this order.

(4) On a date five years from entry of this order, the case will be finally closed unless on appropriate motion and for good cause shown the court orders an earlier or later closing date. After the case is finally closed, no further supervision by this court will occur, and no further motion for modification of the consent decree will be entertained by the court, unless an appropriate motion to reopen, meeting the criteria applicable to relief from a final judgment, has first been allowed.

On the same date as the Final Order, the court also entered a Separate Order for Reporting, ordering the Sheriff to report every six months from the date of the entry of the Order on the number of violent and sexual assaults at the Nashua Street Jail and the incidence of tuberculosis among inmates detained there. The responsibility for reporting would end with the closing of the case in 1999.

        II. Pertinent Provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act

        Exactly two years after the June 14, 1994 Final Order, the Sheriff filed the present motion. The Sheriff bases his motion on the provisions in the recently passed Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. 104-134, §§ 801,...

To continue reading