Ruiz v. Estelle

Decision Date12 December 1980
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. H-78-987.
Citation503 F. Supp. 1265
PartiesDavid RUIZ et al., Plaintiff, United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor, v. W. J. ESTELLE, Jr., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas








William Bennett Turner, Donna Brorby, Gail Saliterman, San Francisco, Cal., for class plaintiffs.

Samuel T. Biscoe, John F. Jordan, Dallas, Tex., Jim Wiginton, Alvin, Tex., for plaintiff, L.D. Hilliard.

David J.W. Vanderhoof, Patricia Gail Littlefield, Charles Ory, Stephen L. Mikochik, Adjoa Burrow, Stephen A. Whinston, Roby Haber, Shawn F. Moore, Dept. of Justice, Civ. Rights Div., Sp. Litigation Section, Washington, D.C., J.A. "Tony" Canales, U.S. Atty., Southern Dist. of Texas, Houston, Tex., John H. Hannah, Jr., U.S. Atty., Eastern Dist. of Texas, Tyler, Tex., for plaintiff-intervenor.

Mark White, Atty. Gen. of Texas, Ed Idar, Jr., Richel Rivers, Harry Walsh, Mary N. Golder, Evelina Ortega, Bruce C. Green, Asst. Attys. Gen., Austin, Tex., Leonard Peck, Art Keinarth, David Jones, Asst. Attys. Gen., Huntsville, Tex., for defendants.


JUSTICE, Chief Judge.

                                  TABLE OF CONTENTS
                  I. INTRODUCTION
                     A. Description of the TDC System            1274
                     B. Description of the TDC Inmate
                        Population                               1274
                     C. Procedural History                       1275
                     D. Outline of the Opinion                   1276
                 II. OVERCROWDING
                     A. Findings of Fact
                        1. Compendium                            1277
                        2. Description of Facilities             1277
                        3. Effects of Overcrowding               1281
                        4. Failure to Ameliorate Overcrowded
                           Conditions                            1283
                       B. Legal Analysis                         1285
                      A. Findings of Fact
                        1. Compendium                            1288
                        2. Security Staff/Understaffing          1288
                           a. Background                         1288
                           b. Training                           1289
                           c. Staff duties and responsibilities
                              Understaffing                      1290
                        3. Building Tender System                1294
                        4. Staff Brutality                       1299
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1303
                  IV. HEALTH CARE
                      Medical Care
                     A. Findings of Fact
                        1. Compendium                            1307
                        2. Staffing and Personnel                1307
                           a. Physicians                         1307
                           b. Nurses                             1309
                           c. Medical Assistants                 1309
                           d. Inmates                            1311
                     e. Dental Personnel                         1312
                        3. Facilities                            1313
                           a. Unit infirmaries                   1313
                           b. Huntsville Unit Hospital           1314
                           c. John Sealy Hospital                1315
                        4. Interference Occasioned by
                           Security and Work Concerns            1315
                           a. Diagnostic Unit Procedures         1315
                           b. Unit Medical Procedures            1318
                           c. HUH Hospital Procedures            1321
                        5. Medical Records                       1323
                        6. Pharmaceutical Services               1324
                        7. Organization                          1327
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1328
                     Psychiatric Care                            1332
                     A.  Findings of Fact
                        1. Compendium                            1332
                        2. Psychiatric Screening of Inmates      1332
                        3. Psychological and Psychiatric
                           Care at the Unit Level                1333
                        4. TDC Treatment Center                  1334
                        5. Treatment Staff in General            1336
                        6. TDC's Defenses                        1338
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1338
                     Special Needs Inmates                       1340
                     A. Findings of Fact
                        1. Compendium                            1340
                        2. Physically Handicapped Inmates        1340
                        3. Mentally Retarded Inmates             1344
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1345
                  V. DISCIPLINE                                  1346
                     Hearing Procedures
                     A. Findings of Fact                         1346
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1350
                        1. The Wolff Requirements
                            a. Notice                            1351
                            b. Statement of reasons              1352
                            c. Witnesses                         1353
                            d. Counsel substitute                1355
                        2. Impartial Hearing Body                1355
                        3. Failure to Follow State Rules         1356
                        4. Vague and Overbroad Rules             1357
                        5. Relief                                1358
                     Solitary Confinement                        1359
                     A. Findings of Fact
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1361
                     Administrative Segregation                  1364
                     A. Findings of Fact
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1365
                 VI. ACCESS TO THE COURTS                        1367
                     A. Findings of Fact
                     B. Legal Analysis                           1370
                 VII. OTHER CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT       1373
                     A. Findings of Fact
                        1. Fire Safety                      1373
                        2. Sanitation                       1374
                           a. Housing areas                 1374
                           b. Water supply and plumbing     1374
                           c. Wastewater and solid
                              waste disposal                1375
                           d. Food service areas            1375
                           e. Food processing areas         1375
                    3. Work Safety and Hygiene              1376
                       B. Legal Analysis                    1377
                          1. Pendent Jurisdiction           1377
                          2. Applicability of State Health
                            and Safety Laws                 1378
                          3. Constitutional Claims          1382
                VIII. TOTALITY OF CONDITIONS                1383
                 IX. DEFENDANTS' RIZZO ARGUMENT             1384
                  X. GENERAL RELIEF                         1385
                     A. Unit Size and Structure             1385
                     B. Prison Location                     1389
                     C. Appointment of One or More Special
                        Masters                             1389
                     D. Development of Detailed Remedial
                        Decree                              1390
                  XI. CONCLUSION                            1391

The issues in this civil action relate to the constitutionality of certain operations of the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC), which is responsible for the confinement and management of adult convicted prisoners of the State of Texas. The plaintiffs are named TDC inmates, who represent a class of all past, present, and future inmates. Defendants are W.J. Estelle, Jr., Director of the Texas Department of Corrections, and the members of the Texas Department of Corrections. Jurisdiction is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and § 2201. Before embarking upon a discussion of the numerous specific factual and legal issues posed by the evidence in this civil action, a general overview of the TDC system, a description of the inmate population, the history of the litigation, and a general outline of this opinion will be set out.

A. Description of the TDC System

The Texas Department of Corrections currently operates eighteen prison unites in the state of Texas, sixteen for male prisoners and two for female prisoners.1 All but one of these units are characterized by TDC as maximum security institutions. Most of the units are large; the smallest incarcerates eight hundred inmates, and the largest house some four thousand. On most of the prison units, extensive farming and industrial operations are carried on, with the use of inmate labor. Indeed, self-sufficiency is a trademark of the TDC system-prison inmates produce most of their own food and clothing, provide manpower for prison construction and maintenance projects, and produce a variety of manufactured goods (mattresses, brooms, furniture, etc.), which are used within the prison system or are sold to other state agencies. Responsibility for the management of the prison system, subject to the control and supervision of the Texas Board of Corrections, is vested in the TDC Director. Each unit has its own warden, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the unit.

B. Description of the TDC Inmate Population

The number of prisoners confined in the TDC system is very large and increases constantly. The inmate population includes persons of a variety of backgrounds and widely differing abilities, as well as many with acute physical and mental problems. A statistical profile of the TDC inmate population reveals pertinent information concerning persons immured in Texas prisons.

TDC's 1978 Annual Statistical Report discloses that approximately ninety-six percent of the 24,575 inmates in TDC system were male, and four percent were female. An ethnic breakdown showed that approximately forty-three percent of inmates were black, thirty-nine percent were white, and nineteen percent were of Mexican ancestry. Prior to the incarceration, almost twenty-seven percent resided in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, twenty-five percent in the Houston area, and seven percent in the San Antonio area. In general, a large majority of TDC's inmates were convicted in urban areas.

The mean age of TDC inmates in 1978 was 29.58, with forty-one percent of the population twenty-five years old or younger. These figures represent slight overall increases from previous years in the age of TDC inmates. In 1978, more than...

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