Benjamin v. Fraser, No. 75 CIV. 3073(HB).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtBaer
Citation161 F.Supp.2d 151
PartiesJames BENJAMIN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. William J. FRASER, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date09 January 2001
Docket NumberNo. 75 CIV. 3073(HB).

Page 151

161 F.Supp.2d 151
James BENJAMIN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
William J. FRASER, et al., Defendants.
No. 75 CIV. 3073(HB).
United States District Court, S.D. New York.
January 9, 2001.

Page 152

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 153

Daniel L. Greenberg, John Boston, Madeline H. deLone, Lisa Freeman, Dale A. Wilker, Legal Aid Society, New York City, for Plaintiffs.

Michael D. Hess, Corporation Counsel of City of New York, Florence A. Hutner, June R. Buch, Coleen Chin, Of Counsel, New York City, for Defendants.

Opinion and Order

BAER, District Judge.


I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual and Procedural Background

Defendants in this action, the City of New York and the Department of Corrections, et. al. (collectively the "Department") brought a motion to terminate the Consent Decrees and all supplemental orders entered in this action and the six related cases that are encompassed herein1 under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA" or "the Act"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321, §§ 801-810 (Apr. 26, 1996).

The procedural background of the decrees is set forth in this Court's Opinion and Order dated June 5, 2000 (June 5th Order) and will not be repeated here except as is necessary. To summarize, the June 5th Order terminated the Consent Decrees pertaining to detainee correspondence and law libraries.2 Thereafter, upon the joint submission of the parties, this Court entered an Order Re: Partial Termination of Consent Decrees and Supplementary

Page 154

Orders, dated August 30, 2000, terminating numerous provisions of the Consent Decrees and certain additional orders.3 By Order dated December 15, 2000 this Court terminated (pursuant to the PLRA) three additional orders related to the Consent Decrees.4

This Court's order of December 9, 1999 prescribed separate hearings for several groups of issues addressed by the Consent Decrees. The hearing on environmental health and the provision of personal hygiene supplies was held on May 8-10 and May 15-17, 2000 (the "May Hearings"). The May Hearings are the subject of this Opinion and Order.

It is worth underscoring at the outset that the Decrees cover the conditions of confinement for pre-trial detainees held on Rikers Island and several county facilities. The conditions of confinement applicable to convicted or sentenced prisoners are not an issue here.

At the May Hearings, this Court heard testimony from 18 present and former detainees in the New York City jails.5 In addition, 11 prisoners gave testimony concerning environmental health and personal hygiene issues at an earlier hearing, held in February 2000.6 The plaintiffs also presented testimony from Robert W. Powitz, Ph.D., an expert in the field of environmental health,7 and called as an adverse witness Tanya Rodriguez Barrows, unit chief for the Mental Health Center on Rikers Island and an employee of St. Barnabas Hospital. The defendants presented the testimony of the Department of Correction's Director of Environmental Health, Patricia Feeney, who also testified as an expert;8 the Department of Correction's Assistant Commissioner for Assets Management and Support Services, Vincent Cara; and the Department of Design and Construction's Assistant Commissioner who serves the Department of Corrections and the Police Department, Kuo Tsu.

Page 155

In addition, both parties presented documentary evidence, which included additional deposition testimony from Commissioner Cara and Director Feeney (Pl.Ex. 369 & 370) and deposition testimony of Roger Slattery, defendants' Assistant Deputy Warden for Administration at AMKC, and responsible for environmental health in the Mental Health Center (Pl.Ex. 17).

The parties engaged in discovery in this case during the latter half of 1999 and through the first four months of 2000. A review of Director Feeney's notes reveals that she conducted joint inspectional tours with the plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Powitz on the following days: November 22, 23, 24, 29 and 30, December 1, 2, 3, 17, 20, and 21, 1999 and March 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 24, 29, and 30, 2000. Pl.Ex. 365-66. (These notes are mis-dated March 23 at Pl.Ex. 366 E066715.) Common sense supports the proposition that these visits were not unannounced.

The hearing was conducted on an expedited schedule because of the statutory prescription of the PLRA that termination motions be ruled upon "promptly." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(1). Pending this and other hearings on defendants' termination motion, the court by Memorandum and Order of December 17, 1999, suspended the effect of the PLRA's "automatic stay" provision, 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(2). Following submissions by both sides (on a timetable agreed upon by both sides and the Court), this matter became subjudice on September 5, 2000.

B. The Facilities

The fourteen jails under review in this proceeding currently house over 10,000 prisoners. The facilities are the Anna M. Kross Center (AMKC), the Adolescent Reception and Detention Center (ARDC), the George Motchan Detention Center (GMDC), the James A. Thomas Center (JATC), the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC), the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC), the North Infirmary Command (NIC), and the West Facility (West) on Rikers Island; the Vernon C. Bain Center (VCBC), a "maritime facility" anchored off the Bronx; the Manhattan Detention Center, (MDC), the Queens Detention Center (QHD), the Brooklyn Detention Center (BKHD), and the Bronx Detention Center (BXHD). (The latter three have also been known as the Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx Houses of Detention.) The Correctional Institution for Men (CIFM), referred to occasionally in testimony and documents, holds sentenced misdemeanants and is not at issue in this proceeding.

C. Standard of Review

The PLRA provides that

Prospective relief shall not terminate if the court makes written findings based on the record that prospective relief remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation of the Federal right, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and that the prospective relief is narrowly drawn and the least intrusive means to correct the violation.

18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(3).

As this Court has observed previously, the PLRA authorizes courts to "continue to define the scope of prisoners' constitutional rights, review the factual record, apply the judicially determined constitutional standards to the facts as they are found in the record and determine what relief is necessary to remedy the constitutional violations." Benjamin v. Jacobson, 172 F.3d 144, 151-52 (2d Cir.1999) quoting Benjamin v. Jacobson, 935 F.Supp. 332, 351 (S.D.N.Y.1996).

Page 156

In Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981), the Supreme Court held that

[prison] conditions ... alone or in combination, may deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Such conditions could be cruel and unusual under the contemporary standard of decency that we recognized in [Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)]. But conditions that cannot be said to be cruel and unusual under contemporary standards are not unconstitutional. To the extent that such conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.

In this case, however, because the plaintiff class is compromised of pre-trial detainees who have not been found guilty of any crime, they are not subject to punishment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-36, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979). The Bell Court concluded that the conditions of a pre-trial detention facility are properly reviewed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Eighth Amendment. 441 U.S. at 537, n. 16, 99 S.Ct. 1861.

In Kost v. Kozakiewicz, the Third Circuit had occasion to consider claims of pretrial detainees alleging inadequate medical treatment and observed that:

Pretrial detainees ... are entitled to at least as much protection as convicted prisoners, so the protections of the Eighth Amendment would seem to establish a floor of sorts. It appears that no determination has as yet been made regarding how much more protection unconvicted prisoners should receive.

1 F.3d 176, 188, n. 10 (3d Cir.1993); City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 463 U.S. 239, 244, 103 S.Ct. 2979, 77 L.Ed.2d 605 (1983) (the Due Process rights of a pretrial detainee are "at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a convicted prisoner.")

To make out an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim, "extreme deprivations are required." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9, 112 S.Ct. 995, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992). To prevail in this litigation, plaintiffs' claims need not rise to such a threshold. The Department of Corrections

may subject [the plaintiffs] to the restrictions and conditions of the detention facility so long as those conditions and restrictions do not amount to punishment, or otherwise violate the Constitution.

* * * * * *

Due process requires that a pretrial detainee not be punished. A sentenced inmate, on the other hand, may be punished, although that punishment may not be "cruel and unusual" under the Eighth Amendment.

* * * * * *

Thus, if a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to "punishment." Conversely, if a restriction or condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal—if it is arbitrary or purposeless—a court permissibly may infer that the purpose of the governmental action is punishment that may not constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees qua detainees. Courts must be mindful that these inquiries spring from constitutional requirements and that judicial answers to them must reflect that fact rather than a court's idea of how best to operate a detention facility.

Page 157

Bell v. Wolfish,...

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32 practice notes
  • Ball v. Beckley, CIVIL NO. 1:11-CV-1829
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • July 13, 2012
    ...379 F.App'x 116 (3d Cir. 2010)(denying inmate claim involving 15 day alleged denial of hygienic material); Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 177 (S.D.N.Y.2001) (two days without feminine hygiene products and toilet paper did not establish a constitutional violation); Stead v. Skinner, ......
  • Little v. Mun. Corp., Case No. 12–CV–5851 KMK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 29, 2014
    ...York, No. 11–CV–7976, 2012 WL 3264354, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 178 (S.D.N.Y.2001), aff'd in relevant part and vacated in part, 343 F.3d 35 (2d Cir.2003) ). When a prison refuses or fails to wash a priso......
  • Little v. Mun. Corp., Case No. 12–CV–5851 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2014
    ...York, No. 11–CV–7976, 2012 WL 3264354, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 178 (S.D.N.Y.2001), aff'd in relevant part and vacated in part, 343 F.3d 35 (2d Cir.2003)). When a prison refuses or fails to wash a prison......
  • Beauvoir v. Falco, 14-cv-00669 (NSR)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 5, 2018
    ...grooming items.")(citing Myers v. City of N.Y., No. 11 Civ. 8525, 2012 WL 3776707, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2012) ; Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 175–76 (S.D.N.Y.2001) ), aff'd , 529 Fed.Appx. 105 (2d Cir. 2013) ); see also McCoy v. Goord, 255 F.Supp.2d at 260 (dismissing Eighth Am......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Ball v. Beckley, CIVIL NO. 1:11-CV-1829
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • July 13, 2012
    ...379 F.App'x 116 (3d Cir. 2010)(denying inmate claim involving 15 day alleged denial of hygienic material); Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 177 (S.D.N.Y.2001) (two days without feminine hygiene products and toilet paper did not establish a constitutional violation); Stead v. Skinner, ......
  • Little v. Mun. Corp., Case No. 12–CV–5851 KMK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 29, 2014
    ...York, No. 11–CV–7976, 2012 WL 3264354, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 178 (S.D.N.Y.2001), aff'd in relevant part and vacated in part, 343 F.3d 35 (2d Cir.2003) ). When a prison refuses or fails to wash a priso......
  • Little v. Mun. Corp., Case No. 12–CV–5851 (KMK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2014
    ...York, No. 11–CV–7976, 2012 WL 3264354, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 178 (S.D.N.Y.2001), aff'd in relevant part and vacated in part, 343 F.3d 35 (2d Cir.2003)). When a prison refuses or fails to wash a prison......
  • Beauvoir v. Falco, 14-cv-00669 (NSR)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 5, 2018
    ...grooming items.")(citing Myers v. City of N.Y., No. 11 Civ. 8525, 2012 WL 3776707, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2012) ; Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151, 175–76 (S.D.N.Y.2001) ), aff'd , 529 Fed.Appx. 105 (2d Cir. 2013) ); see also McCoy v. Goord, 255 F.Supp.2d at 260 (dismissing Eighth Am......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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