Harris v. City of Philadelphia

Decision Date15 February 1995
Docket NumberNos. 93-1997,93-2116 and 93-2117,s. 93-1997
PartiesMartin HARRIS; Jesse Kithcart; William Davis; Randall Cummings; Evelyn Lingham; Estrus Fowler; Tyrone Hill; and Nathaniel Carter v. The CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; Joan Reeves, in her official capacity as Commissioner of The Department of Human Services of the City of Philadelphia; Albert F. Campbell; Rosita Saez-Achilla; Genece E. Brinkley, Esq., Rev. Paul M. Washington, M. Mark Mendel, Hon. Stanley Kubacki, Mamie Faines, each in his or her official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Prison System; J. Patrick Gallagher, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Philadelphia Prison System; Harry E. Moore, in his official capacity as Warden of Holmesburg Prison; Wilhelmina Speach, in her official capacity as Warden of the Detention Center; Press Grooms, in his official capacity as Warden of the House of Corrections; Raymond E. Shipman, in his official capacity as Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia; and Mayor Edward G. Rendell, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, Theodore Levine, Albert F. Campbell, Rosita Saez-Achilla, Genece E. Brinkley, Esq., Rev. Paul M. Washington, M. Mark Mendel, Esq., Hon. Stanley Kubacki, Mamie Faines, J. Patrick Gallagher, Harry E. Moore, Wilhelmina Speach, Press Grooms, Raymond E. Shipman, Hon. Edward G. Rendell, and the City of Philadelphia, Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

Mark A. Aronchick (argued), Gary A. Rosen, Randy K. Hubert, Hangley, Connolly, Epstein, Chicco, Foxman & Ewing, James B. Jordan, Office of City Sol., Philadelphia, PA, for appellants.

Sarah B. Vandenbreak, Office of Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, PA, for amicus-appellant Lynne Abraham.

David Richman (argued), Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Philadelphia, PA, for appellees.

Before: SLOVITER, Chief Judge, MANSMANN and ALITO, Circuit Judges.


SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

The lawsuit that underlies these appeals arises out of the decade-long efforts of a class of incarcerated prisoners to ameliorate the severe overcrowding and harsh conditions existing in the prisons maintained and supervised by the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereafter Philadelphia or City). The Philadelphia defendants have not contested the need for substantial and meaningful improvements. Indeed, they entered into two consent decrees and stipulated revisions thereto in which they agreed to make massive improvements and agreed to have the district court supervise the steps they planned to implement those improvements. It is also not contested that Philadelphia did not meet the deadlines for some of the obligations it undertook in the consent decrees and stipulations. Ultimately, because of Philadelphia's failure to comply, the district court entered the series of orders which are the subject of these appeals. 1

Before us in this opinion is the City of Philadelphia's appeal from the order of October 5, 1993 imposing on it stipulated penalties totalling $584,000 (No. 93-1997), the order of October 28, 1993 directing production of the Facilities Audit (No. 93-2116), and the order of November 1, 1993 dismissing the City's Motion to Modify the December 30, 1986 Decree and the March 11, 1991 Decree as a contempt sanction for the City's failure to timely submit the Facilities Audit and Ten-Year Plan by the dates previously stipulated (No. 93-2117).

These appeals were consolidated for argument with three related appeals. The appeal from the injunction entered by the district court governing the occupancy and conditions of confinement of the City's newly constructed prison facility denominated the Alternative and Special Detention Central Unit (No. 93-2034) was remanded to the district court because the issues raised by the City on appeal had not been raised by it in the district court. See Harris v. City of Philadelphia (Harris IV), 35 F.3d 840 (3d Cir.1994). Still pending and the subject of separate opinions filed today are the appeal from an order adjudicating the City in contempt and imposing fines for noncompliance with an order requiring occupancy of a substance abuse and treatment facility, Harris v. City of Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1333 (3d Cir.1995) (Harris VI ), and the appeal from another order adjudicating the City in contempt and imposing on it fines for its modification of procedures for designation of bailable pretrial detainees for release, Harris v. City of None of these appeals directly challenges the stipulated maximum allowable population of prisoners to be housed, although that issue remains the raison d'etre of all the orders and decrees that followed. The three appeals that are the subject of this opinion instead concern the comprehensive Prison Planning Process (PPP) agreed to in the 1991 Consent Decree as an orderly planning process for the construction, operation and management of the Philadelphia prison system. Necessarily implicated in this series of appeals is the role of the district court in overseeing the administration of county prison facilities pursuant to a consent decree designed to ameliorate overcrowding, and the use of its contempt power for alleged noncompliance with orders voluntarily undertaken.

Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1342 (3d Cir.1995) (Harris VII ).


In 1982 a group of inmates suffering from overcrowding at Holmesburg Prison filed a class action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983 and 1988 claiming violations of the First, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments against the City of Philadelphia and individual city officials who were responsible for administering the Philadelphia prison system. An amended complaint filed April 19, 1983 asserted claims for constitutional deprivation under the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. In 1986, the lawsuit was expanded from its focus on Holmesburg Prison to encompass the Philadelphia prison system as a whole, and the plaintiff class was enlarged to include all past, present and future inmates in the Philadelphia prison system. 2 We have been advised by counsel that the inmates are both pretrial detainees (on either nonbailable offenses or who cannot post the required bail) and sentenced prisoners, in approximately equal proportions. Argument Transcript at 6.

In late 1986, the inmates negotiated a settlement with the City in which they gave up their claims for damages in return for, inter alia, the construction of a 440-bed detention facility in downtown Philadelphia by December 31, 1990 and a maximum allowable population for the then-existing facilities of the Philadelphia prison system. App. at 91-92. On December 30, 1986, the district court approved the settlement and the next day entered a Consent Order (the "1986 Consent Decree") consistent with its terms.

By 1989 it became clear that the 440-bed detention facility would not be available by December 31, 1990. In an attempt to alleviate the continued overcrowding, the City and the plaintiff class negotiated an agreement which strengthened population control measures, renewed the City's commitment to new prison construction, and required the City to plan rationally to meet the needs of existing and future inmates. The parties submitted this proposed stipulation to the district court for approval, see Supp.App. at 1535, 1693, which was not forthcoming. 3 Consequently, on February 14, 1990, the plaintiff class moved to vacate the 1986 Consent Decree and to reinstate the Second Amended Complaint. See Supp.App. at 1674-1703. The City opposed this motion and urged the court to consider that it had already agreed to devise a comprehensive prison plan dealing with ten-year population projections, prison construction and renovation, Continued negotiation led the parties to enter into a new Stipulation and Agreement culminating in another Consent Order approved by the district court (the "1991 Consent Decree"), this one considerably more detailed, which contained a series of stipulations and remedial steps aimed at alleviating the overcrowding in the prison system. 4 In the 1991 Consent Decree, the parties stipulated that

management and training, information systems, incarceration alternatives, and state court reforms, and had already spent $250,000 on consultants to help meet its responsibilities. See Supp.App. at 1524-51. On August 31, 1990 the plaintiff class moved the court for emergency relief from the continued overcrowding. In its response, the City concurred in the relief suggested and informed the court that the City had formulated a Prisons Master Plan as well as a Justice Facilities and Systems Improvement Strategy. Supp.App. at 1542-43.

4. New prison construction is inadvisable without detailed consideration of the future demands to be made on the Philadelphia prison system in light of: City population trends; trends in the crime rate; the habitability of existing prison facilities and the feasibility of their rehabilitation; the likelihood and effect of changes in the administration of criminal justice in Philadelphia; and the availability of alternatives to confinement.

5. Once the immediate and longer-range needs of the Philadelphia Prison System are determined realistically, how best to meet those needs should be addressed in a rational planning process.

App. at 113.

As a long-term solution, the parties agreed to undertake a comprehensive Prison Planning Process, which entailed evaluation of the current facilities and a carefully considered long-range plan in addition to the construction of new facilities and the repair of existing facilities. The parties also agreed to short-term remedies, one relating to a revised admissions moratorium and release mechanism and the other relating to the City's undertaking to provide a substance abuse program.

With respect to the long-term...

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