Palmigiano v. Garrahy

Decision Date28 March 1978
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 74-172 and 75-032.
Citation448 F. Supp. 659
PartiesNicholas A. PALMIGIANO et al. v. J. Joseph GARRAHY et al. Thomas R. ROSS et al. v. J. Joseph GARRAHY et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island


Robert B. Mann, Providence, R. I., Matthew L. Myers of the National Prison Project of the ACLU, Washington, D. C., for plaintiffs.

William G. Brody, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Providence, R. I., Valentino Lombardi, R. I. Dept. of Corrections, Cranston, R. I., for defendants.


PETTINE, Chief Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon plaintiffs' motion that the defendant Department of Corrections be held in civil contempt for failure to comply with paragraphs 5(a) and 5(c) of the Court's Order of August 10, 1977, Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 443 F.Supp. 956 (D.R.I.1977).

After almost a decade of repeated and protracted litigation over the conditions at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI),1 this Court found, in its Opinion of August 10, 1977, that conditions at the ACI constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.2 It noted that the

lack of sanitation, lighting, heating, and ventilation, and the noise, idleness, fear and violence, and the absence or inadequacy of programs of classification, education, physical exercise, vocational training or other constructive activity create a total environment where debilitation is inevitable, and which is unfit for human habitation and shocking to the conscience of a reasonably civilized person. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, at 979.

In its Order of August 10, 1977 the Court therefore directed defendants to make significant changes in facilities and environment, classification of inmates, and educational and vocational program opportunities throughout the institution. The Court set out a timetable for meeting the various requirements of its Order and required defendants to report monthly on their progress towards achieving compliance.

Finally, the Court appointed Allen F. Breed, a nationally recognized expert in the field of corrections, to serve as its Special Master pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 53. By the Court's Order of Reference dated October 27, 1977, the Master was charged with responsibility for reporting to the Court on defendants' efforts toward achieving compliance. He was authorized to consult with and advise defendants and to make appropriate recommendations to the Court regarding supplemental relief.

The specific issues presently before the Court involve the reclassification of the inmate population. In its original Opinion, the Court stressed the importance of reclassification to the entire prison program:

Classification is essential to the operation of an orderly and safe prison. It is a prerequisite for the rational allocation of whatever program opportunities exist within the institution. It enables the institution to gauge the proper custody level of an inmate, to identify the inmate's educational, vocational, and psychological needs, and to separate non-violent inmates from the more predatory. These goals are recognized by state law, which provides that classification shall serve a rehabilitative function. Classification is also indispensible for any coherent future planning. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, at 965. (footnote omitted)

Therefore, as part of the August 10 Order, the Court directed that:

5. (a) Defendants, not having classified prisoners according to state law, shall, within six months from the entry of this order, reclassify all prisoners in the Rhode Island penal system.
. . . . .
(c) Defendants shall, in the reclassification process, arrange for personal interviews of each prisoner and gather all pertinent information about each prisoner's community and institutional life, including, but not limited to, the following:
1. the age, offense, prior criminal record, vocational, educational and work needs, and physical and mental health care requirements of each inmate;
2. special needs arising from age, infirmity, psychological disturbance or mental retardation, requiring transfer to a more appropriate facility, or special treatment within the institution; and
3. eligibility for appropriate transfer to a pre-release, work-release, or other community-based facility.

Defendants were to have complied with this portion of the Order by February 10, 1978.

On February 6, 1978, pursuant to his Order of Reference, the Master held a hearing to determine whether defendants would comply with paragraphs 5(a) and 5(c) of the Order. Based on this hearing and his own expert observations, the Master submitted to this Court his Compliance Report of February 17, 1978, in which he made findings of fact, together with recommendations to defendants and the Court. The Master found that defendants had failed to reclassify the ACI population pursuant to the August 10 Order; furthermore, he found that they had no administrative or penological reasons for their noncompliance.

On March 10, 1978, plaintiffs moved that the Court hold defendants in civil contempt and apply contingent sanctions to enforce compliance with its Order. In its letter of March 13, 1978 to the parties, the Court directed the parties to appear before it on March 17, 1978, for two purposes:

1) To determine whether any of the findings of fact in the Master's Compliance Report of February 10, 1978 to which the defendants object are clearly erroneous, as provided by Rule 53(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; and
2) To hear oral argument on the plaintiffs' Motion for an Order to Show Cause why the Defendants Should not be Held in Contempt for Failure to Comply with Paragraph 5(a)(c) of the Court's August 10, 1977 Order.
In preparing their testimony concerning any objections to the Master's report, the parties should be mindful that the usual rules of evidence will be applied and that the standard by which the Master's report will be judged is that of "clearly erroneous." Any evidence that was not presented to the Master will be admitted only upon a showing that the party offering it lacked a reasonable opportunity to offer the evidence at the hearing held by the Master on this subject on February 6, 1978.

Having taken testimony and heard argument, this Court will now address the adoption of the Master's Report and the motion for contempt with respect to defendants' noncompliance with paragraphs 5(a) and 5(c). The remaining issues raised in the Master's Compliance Report will be addressed in a further hearing on April 17, 1978.

I. Findings of Fact

Fed.R.Civ.P. 53 directs a court in its treatment of a master's report. Rule 53(e)(2) states:

In an action to be tried without a jury the court shall accept the master's findings of fact unless clearly erroneous. Within 10 days after being served with notice of the filing of the report any party may serve written objections thereto upon the other parties . . . The court after hearing may adopt the report or may modify it in whole or in part or may receive further evidence or may recommit it with instructions.

While defendants filed no written objections, they proffered objections and testimony in the March 17th hearing. Defendants did not object to the Master's findings with regard to their failure to reclassify more than 37 inmates by February 10th. They did not offer evidence showing that they could not comply, did not know how to comply, or lacked resources to comply. They did, however, offer testimony in order to show that they had made good faith efforts to achieve compliance. This evidence focussed primarily on the efforts of the Governor's Implementation Team from August to December, when it ceased to function.3

We find this evidence tangential in response to the Master's Report. While the defendants demonstrated that the Governor's Implementation Team responded with energy and dedication, they leave an unexplained hiatus between their energy and the uncontroverted facts detailed below, that the Implementation Team's efforts failed to achieve compliance.

We therefore accept the Master's Report as not clearly erroneous and, in fact, upon review of the testimony, we find it has ample support.

Based upon the Master's Report, the evidence adduced in his hearing and the evidence presented to this Court at the March 17 hearing, we find the following:

1. The Governor of Rhode Island, the Director of the Department of Corrections, and their agents are responsible for implementing subparagraph 5 of the Court's August 10 Order.

2. From August to December the Governor's Implementation Team was charged by the Governor with the responsibility of monitoring compliance with and implementation of the Court's Order. The Team was dismissed in December 1977.

A. Degree of defendants' compliance as of February 10, 1978

3. As of February 10, 1978, the defendants' reclassification process was divided in theory into four stages. Classification staff obtained information consisting of social histories, educational and psychological tests, criminal justice background, and institutional record for each inmate. The Classification Team, a group appointed from the Department of Corrections, consisted of a clinical psychologist, an educational specialist, and a correctional officer. It compiled information, interpreted the findings, and made recommendations concerning the inmate's program and security classification. The Team prepared a face sheet for each inmate, summarizing the information and recommendations, and one of the Team members presented the report to the Classification Board. The Classification Board, designated by statute (R.I. G.L. §§ 42-56-29, 30, 31), decided on the appropriate security classification and program for each inmate. Finally, the action of the Board was reviewed by the Director of the Department of Corrections or his designee.

4. As of February 6, 1978, only 37 out of more than 500 inmates had appeared before the Classification Board.

5. As of...

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