Laube v. Haley, CIV.A.02-T-957-N.

Citation234 F.Supp.2d 1227
Decision Date02 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.02-T-957-N.,CIV.A.02-T-957-N.
PartiesLinda LAUBE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Michael HALEY, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama

Stephen B. Bright, Tamara H. Serwer, Marion D. Chartoff, Lisa Kung, Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA, John A. Russell, III, Aliceville, AL, for Plaintiffs.

Ellen Ruth Leonard, Office of the Attorney General, Montgomery, AL, William F. Addison, Andrew W. Redd, Alabama Department of Corrections, Montgomery, AL, for Defendants.

OPINION

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.

The complaint in this lawsuit charges that conditions for female inmates in the Alabama State Prison System violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs are 15 female prisoners incarcerated in the following three facilities: the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women (Tutwiler), located in Wetumpka, Alabama; the Edwina Mitchell Work Release Center (Mitchell), also located in Wetumpka, only a few hundred feet away from Tutwiler; and the Birmingham Work Release Center (Birmingham), located in Birmingham, Alabama. The defendants are Governor Don Siegelman, Department of Corrections Commissioner Michael Haley, Tutwiler Warden Gladys Deese, Mitchell Acting Warden Patricia Hood, and Birmingham Director Mary Carter. The plaintiffs have brought suit on behalf of themselves and all other female state prisoners in Alabama.

The plaintiffs make various claims that the defendants operate the three facilities in an unsafe manner and do not provide the facilities' inmates with their basic human needs, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment and enforced through 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. In support of their claims, the plaintiffs assert that the following conditions exist at Tutwiler: overcrowding, inadequate supervision in open dorms, improper or inadequate inmate classification, inmate violence, the availability of weapons, the small number of segregation cells, inadequate living space, inadequate ventilation and extreme heat during the summer. They assert that the following conditions exist at Mitchell: overcrowding, inadequate supervision in open dorms, inadequate living space, and inadequate ventilation. And they assert that the following conditions exist at Birmingham: inadequate supervision of the segregation unit and overall inadequate ventilation in the facility. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to these conditions and the serious risk these conditions pose to inmates. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331 (federal question) and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343 (civil rights).

Now before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Based on the evidence presented at a hearing held on September 23 through 27 and on October 10, 2002 (as well as an earlier on-site court visit to both Tutwiler and Mitchell) and other submissions, the court concludes that the motion should be granted to the extent that some of the conditions at Tutwiler (most particularly, significant understaffing of security officers in greatly overcrowded inmate dorms) have resulted in an impermissibly unsafe environment for inmates. The motion will be denied as to Mitchell and Birmingham, and as to Tutwiler in all other respects.

I. STANDARD FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Whether to issue a preliminary injunction lies within the sound discretion of the district court. Frio Ice, S.A. v. Sunfruit, Inc., 918 F.2d 154, 159 (11th Cir.1990). The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has established a four-prong test for the district court to apply when determining whether a preliminary injunction should issue. Under this test, the movant must demonstrate: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted; (3) the threatened harm to the plaintiff outweighs any harm that the injunction may cause the defendant; and (4) the public interest will not be disserved by the grant of a preliminary injunction. Id. After first making preliminary findings of fact, the court will explain why, based on the application of the above four-prong test, preliminary relief is warranted on some of the plaintiffs' claims.

II. PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF FACT
A. Tutwiler
1. General Description of the Facility

Tutwiler began housing inmates in 1942 and was originally designed to hold 364 inmates. Tutwiler now houses approximately 1,017 inmates of all security levels. Over the years, modifications have been made to the facility's infrastructure—sewage system, kitchen, and laundry—to expand its capacity. Even with design modifications, however, the facility was never meant to house as many as 1,017 inmates. The inmates are housed in ten dorms, two "Medical Isolation Units" (MIUs), several segregation units and two death row units. Each of the ten dorms is designated to hold a specific type of inmate population. The housing designations are as follows:

                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                HOUSING                           TYPE OF INMATE                     NUMBER OF
                 UNIT                               POPULATION                        INMATES1
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm One    General population                                            82
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Two    Faith dorm—for inmates with good behavior who want to
                            participate in religious programs available in the dorm       80
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Three  Honor dorm—for inmates with good behavior                     80
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Four   General population                                            82
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Five   Drug treatment                                                60
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Six    Mental health                                                 76
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Seven  Aged, infirm, and pregnant                                    82
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Eight  Intake and receiving—where inmates are placed upon
                            arrival                                                       63
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Nine   General population                                           238
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Dorm Ten    Drug treatment                                               106
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                MIU 1       HIV-positive                                                  20
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                MIU 2       HIV-positive                                                  20
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Segregation Inmates with disciplinary infractions, maximum- and
                            closed-security inmates,2 inmates sentenced to life without
                            parole, and inmates in protective custody                     21
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Death Row   Inmates sentenced to death                                     4
                -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                

Tutwiler has a total security staff of 92 officers; when the facility is fully staffed, 23 of these officers are on duty at any one time.

2. Conditions at the Facility

The plaintiffs contend that a multitude of conditions and factors at Tutwiler, alone or in combination, are unconstitutional. These conditions and factors include overcrowding, open dorms, inadequate supervision, the classification system, the presence of make-shift weapons and contraband, inmate violence, the small number of segregation cells, poor ventilation, and heat. The court will discuss each of these in turn.

a. Overcrowding: All parties acknowledge that Tutwiler, now housing approximately 1,017 inmates, is far beyond its original design capacity of 364 inmates. Over the years, the facility's infrastructure has been modified and additional beds and dorms have been added as the inmate population has grown. In the last few years, beds have been placed in every available space in every dorm; the only reason that more beds have not been added to the dorm facilities is that, simply put, not one more bed will fit. The facility, according to Warden Deese, is at its absolute capacity. Commissioner Haley stated this meant two things: (1) the facility cannot accommodate more beds in its existing dorms; and (2) although there is other space in the facility where beds could conceivably be placed (the visiting area, classrooms, and treatment areas), doing so would cause significant problems for both management and the inmate population. For example, Warden Deese testified that adding more beds would mean converting the visitation area to a dormitory and eliminating some programs and all visitation to inmates, which could result in considerable disruption in the inmate population. Further, Commissioner Haley testified that adding more beds would seriously tax the facility's infrastructure. He emphasized that the prison currently uses Wetumpka's sewage system and cannot contribute any more waste to the system; its kitchen and laundry are being used at their maximum capacity; and it has used all available land. In short, Haley...

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