Dawson v. Kendrick

Decision Date10 August 1981
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 78-1076.
Citation527 F. Supp. 1252
PartiesRonald DAWSON, Marlon Lee Hess, James L. Caldwell, William Burton, Garrett Norris, Charles Scott, Chris Dillard and James Martin, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Earl G. KENDRICK, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Mercer County, West Virginia; Luther H. Byrd, individually and in his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner and as representative of all other members of the Commission; Joe Coburn, individually and in his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner and President of the Mercer County Commission, and as representative of all other members of the Commission; Clarence H. Six, individually and in his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner, and as representative of all other members of the Commission; Mercer County Commission; Ricky Lee Lambert, individually and in his official capacity as jailer; and Harvey D. Wilson, individually and in his official capacity as Clerk of the Mercer County Commission, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia





Tobias J. Hirshman, Charleston, W. Va., for plaintiffs.

David W. Knight, Charles T. Cunningham, Princeton, W. Va., for defendants.




COPENHAVER, District Judge.

                Introduction                        1257
                  I.  Findings of Fact
                        Generally                   1259
                        Population and
                          Operational Costs         1261
                        Plumbing                    1262
                        Lighting                    1263
                        General Sanitary
                          & Health Conditions       1263
                        Deputy Sheriffs             1265
                        Fire Detection              1266
                        Sufficiency of
                          Housing & Supervision     1268
                        Classification              1270
                        Rules and Regulations       1271
                        Imposition of
                          Punishment                1271
                          Segregation               1271
                        Clothing                    1272
                        Toilet Articles             1272
                        Exercise                    1272
                        Medical & Dental            1272
                        Nutrition                   1273
                        Mail                        1275
                        Telephones                  1276
                        Visitation                  1276
                        Reading Materials           1277
                        Rehab Programs              1277
                        Access to the
                          Courts                    1279
                          Interview Facilities      1279
                        Possible Discrimination     1279
                        Other Conditions            1280
                        Conclusions                 1280
                  II. Conclusions of Law ÔÇö
                        The Function of
                          Review                    1280
                        Eight Amendment
                          and Fourteenth
                          Amendment                 1282
                        State Statutory
                          Standards                 1284
                        Totality of Conditions
                          & Discrete
                          Analyses                  1285
                        Equal Protection            1286
                  III. Conclusions of Law ÔÇö
                         The Constitutionality
                         of Conditions and
                         Practices at the
                         Mercer County Jail
                  A.  Plumbing                      1287
                  B.  Lighting                      1288
                  C.  Bedding, Clothing
                        & Toilet Articles           1288
                  D.  Housekeeping                  1289
                  E.  Prisoner Safety               1289
                  F.  Overcrowding                  1294
                  G.  Nutrition                     1297
                  H.  Exercise                      1298
                  I.  Discipline                    1301
                  J.  Medical Care                  1306
                  K.  Visitation                    1308
                  L.  Mail                          1309
                  M.  Access to the
                        Courts                      1312
                  N.  Segregated Confinement        1314
                  O.  Rehab. & Reading
                        Materials                   1315
                  P.  Voting                        1316
                  Q.  Female Prisoners              1316
                  IV. ORDER                         1318

The named plaintiffs in this civil action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ž 1983 are certain past and present inmates of the Mercer County Jail located in Princeton, West Virginia. Plaintiffs have asserted extensive denials of their various constitutional rights due to the conditions they allege exist at the jail. The complaint does not focus upon an isolated condition or even group of conditions. Rather, plaintiffs have launched a comprehensive assault upon all of the physical aspects of the jail and virtually every procedure by which the jail is operated and maintained.

The court has conditionally certified this case as a class action. The class is composed of all persons who have been, presently are, or shall in the future be confined in the jail, excluding those whose claims are barred by statutes of limitation or laches. The class is subdivided into two parts with one subclass being composed of all members of the class who are pre-trial detainees and the other being all members of the class who have been confined in the jail following trial or conviction for some crime.

The trial to the court of plaintiffs' requests for both a preliminary and a permanent injunction and for declaratory relief were consolidated for hearing. Trial of the damages issues has been postponed until adjudication of the requests for injunctive and declaratory relief.

The claims against the physical aspects of the jail allege inadequate plumbing and lighting; exposure to risk of injury or death by fire due to inadequate fire escape routes; the lack of adequate facilities and programs for indoor and outdoor exercise and recreation; the lack of light, toilet facilities, and showers in the solitary confinement cells; the lack of adequate facilities in which an inmate may consult with an attorney; and, the presence of unsanitary and unhealthful conditions in the jail in general such as filth and vermin. Plaintiffs complain as well of the manner in which the jail is operated and the lack of numerous necessary services, alleging: inadequate medical, dental and nursing care; nutritionally inadequate meals; the failure to provide clothing; the failure to furnish various toilet articles and grooming aids; insufficient numbers of guards and deputy sheriffs stationed in the jail so as to endanger the health and safety of the inmates; the lack of written rules to inform the inmates of their rights and responsibilities; the failure to provide vocational, educational, or other rehabilitative programs; the lack of an adequate classification system of the inmates, leading in turn to insufficient supervision and indiscriminate housing of the inmates; inadequate handling of inmate mail and access to telephones; the failure to provide sufficient reading materials; inadequate visitation schedules and poor facilities in which the inmates may meet with their visitors; the arbitrary imposition of punishment upon inmates who are alleged to have broken the unwritten jail rules without a hearing or other protection; and the general imposition of discriminatory treatment upon the inmates by the jailkeepers. Plaintiffs also assert that their access to the courts is being impinged upon because they are denied access to their attorneys and to various legal materials, including a law library. A separate claim of some of the inmates alleges the failure of the jailkeepers to adequately provide the lesser degree of incarceration to which pre-trial detainees are said to be entitled. The issues presented conclude with additional claims premised upon the alleged failure of the jailkeepers to comply with various statutory duties which repeat the items set forth above.1

I. Findings of Fact

In addition to the oral testimony and exhibits received during the trial and the view of the jail by the court during the course of the trial, the parties have entered into several stipulations of fact.2 The court adopts all of the stipulations of fact as its own and incorporates them in these findings by reference. The court's findings of fact, in addition to the stipulations, are set forth in the following discussion.

The Mercer County Jail is operated by the Mercer County Sheriff's Department and is financed by the Mercer County Commission. The jail, which is the only primarily adult detention center operated by the county, is located within the Mercer County Courthouse in Princeton, West Virginia. The courthouse is a three-story building plus a basement. The entrance to the jail is located at the basement level. The basement houses the jail control room, the kitchen facilities, the drunk tank, and the so-called juvenile area.3 The sheriff's office proper is located on the first floor of the courthouse. The main portion of the jail is located on the entire third floor of the building. Access to the jail facilities on the third floor is by three means: an elevator which rises from the basement to the third floor; a staircase rising from the basement to the third floor with an exit to the sheriff's office on the first floor and an exit into the prosecuting attorney's office; and a small elevator which stops at the third floor and at the second floor near the criminal courtroom on that floor. The small elevator does not continue downward past the second floor.

The entire courthouse was designed in 1929 and was built in 1930-31. General maintenance of the water, toilet, and lighting facilities has been undertaken from time to time in response to prisoner abuse and the aging of the building. Although routine maintenance checks are not made by a professional firm, the deputies report maintenance needs as they arise.

The one instance of major repair and maintenance work on the courthouse took place...

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