State ex rel. K. W. v. Werner, Nos. 14002

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtHARSHBARGER; MILLER
Citation161 W.Va. 192,242 S.E.2d 907
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia ex rel. K. W. and C. W. v. Stewart WERNER, Commissioner of Corrections, etc., et al.
Decision Date31 January 1978
Docket Number14051 and 14052,14003,Nos. 14002

Page 907

242 S.E.2d 907
161 W.Va. 192
STATE of West Virginia ex rel. K. W. and C. W.
v.
Stewart WERNER, Commissioner of Corrections, etc., et al.
Nos. 14002, 14003, 14051 and 14052.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Jan. 31, 1978.
Concurring Opinion April 3, 1978.

Page 908

Syllabus by the Court

1. "Habeas corpus lies to secure relief from conditions of imprisonment which constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the provisions of Article III, Section 5, of the Constitution of West Virginia and of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." Syllabus point 1, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972).

2. Institutionalization of juveniles found guilty of delinquency because of criminal acts is not per se cruel and unusual punishment or a denial of equal protection of the law.

3. Punitive practices such as "bench time," "floor time," solitary confinement, beating, slapping, kicking or otherwise physically abusing juveniles incarcerated at the State Industrial School for Boys at Pruntytown is cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the state constitution, and every person subjected to any of them absent exigent circumstances, shall be entitled to redress. W.Va.Const. art. 3, § 5.

Charles R. Garten, Jr., Charleston, Kathleen Strasbaugh, Hamlin, for relators K. W. and C. W.

Richard E. Hardison, Deputy Atty. Gen., Pamela Dawn Tarr, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for respondents.

[161 W.Va. 193] HARSHBARGER, Justice:

These petitions ask us to decide whether incarceration of male juvenile criminal offenders in the West Virginia Industrial School for Boys (known as "Pruntytown") violates their rights afforded by the federal constitution's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and by Article 3, Sections 5 and 10 of the West Virginia Constitution. 1 No issue is presented about adjudicatory processes by which petitioners were committed to the institution. The cases are here on petitions for habeas corpus and mandamus addressed to our original jurisdiction and the record consists of the pleadings, depositions and exhibits submitted by the parties. 2

Thus we must examine the constitutional bounds within which government may act in dealing with juveniles convicted of delinquency for criminal activities. (We [161 W.Va. 194] addressed treatment of those convicted of "status" offenses in our recent decision in State ex rel. Harris v. Calendine, W.Va., 233 S.E.2d 318 (1977).) We are asked to define according to the conditions of our society, the level of civility with which the state must deal with its youthful citizens, required by federal and state constitutional mandate. 3

Page 909

It is well established in West Virginia that habeas corpus lies to test the constitutionality of the conditions of confinement. "Habeas corpus lies to secure relief from conditions of imprisonment which constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the provisions of Article III, Section 5, of the Constitution of West Virginia [161 W.Va. 195] and of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." Syllabus point 1, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972).

K. W. is a fifteen-year-old young man from Lincoln County where he was adjudged delinquent for breaking and entering. C. W. is a fourteen-year-old boy from Logan County who was also found delinquent for breaking and entering.

In addition to testimony by petitioners and three other inmates, there were depositions by Edward Aman, Supervisor of Diagnostic Classification at the industrial school; Dr. Mary Bowman, educational evaluator; Dennis Bridgeman, Administrative Assistant to the Clinical Director of Weston State Hospital; Robert P. Hawkins, professor of psychology at West Virginia University; Samuel K. McDaniel, planner and former teacher and correctional officer at Pruntytown; Dr. Jerome G. Miller, Commissioner of Children and Youth for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Richard Mohn, Deputy Director of Youth Services in the West Virginia Department of Corrections, and Chief Administrator of the industrial school; Francis W. Nestor, Director of Education at the school; Jean Berry Racine, consultant in early childhood education; Donald R. Swick, a practicing clinical psychologist; Joseph C. Taylor, a private practicing psychologist; and Stewart Werner, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

We gain these facts from the evidence, about the facility and treatment of inmates:

It is located about three miles from Grafton, in Taylor County. (It is within 35 miles of West Virginia University, Fairmont State College, Alderson-Broaddus College, Davis-Elkins College and West Virginia Wesleyan College.)

There are about 130 boys in the school, and some 100 staff members (both full and part-time). The inmates are housed in four "cottages" and a reception center. Their sleeping quarters are open dormitories in which each inmate has a cot, wall locker and drawer-like locker that [161 W.Va. 196] is under his cot. The average duration of incarceration is nine months.

At the time the petitions were filed, certain inmate disciplinary practices were routinely employed at the institution:

1) Inmates thought guilty of serious disciplinary offenses, such as escape, were punished by confinement in small, windowless steel-walled cells (there are three cells) furnished with a combination toilet, wash basin and drinking fountain, a steel cot with flame-proof mattress, and a light. There is an aperture in the door about eight by eight inches through which food and

Page 910

other articles can be passed. The cells are about four feet wide, eight feet long and eight feet high. Youths placed in them were allowed to wear only their undershorts.

2) "Floor time" was a punishment whereby the inmate apparently was required to stand stiffly in one position for several hours each day without talking.

3) "Bench time" was a punishment that required the inmate to sit in a specified location with arms crossed for several hours each day and for several days without talking or moving.

4) Mace, a chemical irritant, was freely used by staff upon inmates whose behavior did not suit staff requirements.

It is uncontroverted that both petitioners have been confined in a security cell and both have had "bench time". K. W. has had "floor time" and has been physically assaulted by a staff member and threatened with Mace attack in a security cell. C. W. was "maced" in a security cell and was required to scrub floors with a toothbrush for many hours.

However, respondent Commissioner of Corrections Werner testified that use of security cells has been stopped except as a temporary restraining place for children who are out of control; that Mace is to be used only to quell riot-type disturbances; that "floor time" and "bench time" have been abolished, although there is [161 W.Va. 197] "quiet time" during which an inmate must remain at one location and speak to no one, but is free to read or write and to change his body position. respondent testified that physical assaults by staff or inmates are now strictly forbidden.

I.

Even though the physical brutalities practiced at the institution have been halted, we comment upon them, in case the government should be inclined sometime in the future to embrace them as attractive disciplinary devices.

We must test the acts according to present day concepts of morality and decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 378, 30 S.Ct. 544, 553, 54 L.Ed. 783 (1910); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101, 78 S.Ct. 590, 2 L.Ed.2d 630 (1958). State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972). Let us suppose they were methods of discipline imposed upon a child by its father: would not this court sustain removal of the child from such a brutal environment, even if the parent should protest (as does the state) that he were merely attempting to maintain order in the home so he could educate the errant child, provide enlightenment, cultivation and culture?

Is the cruelty any less when its excuse is its supposed necessity to gain the child's undivided attention? Certainly not. And we cannot tolerate inhuman treatment by the state that we would not tolerate if practiced upon its victim by his or her own family. 4

[161 W.Va. 198] Morales v. Turman, 383 F.Supp. 53 (E.D.Tex.1974), rev'd on other grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev'd per curiam, 430 U.S. 322, 97 S.Ct. 1189, 51 L.Ed.2d 368 (1977), presents an exhaustive examination of the Texas postadjudicatory treatment of juvenile offenders and Judge Justice dealt with these very same acts:

"Practices found by this court to violate the Eighth Amendment were: the widespread practice of beating, slapping, kicking, and otherwise physically abusing juveniles in the absence of any exigent circumstances, see Ingraham v. Wright, 498 F.2d 248 (5th Cir. July 29, 1974); the use of tear gas and other chemical crowd-control devices in situations not posing an imminent

Page 911

threat to human life or an imminent and substantial threat to property; the placing of juveniles in solitary confinement or other secured facilities, in the absence of any legislative or administrative limitation on the duration and intensity of the confinement and subject only to the unfettered discretion of correctional officers; the requirement that inmates maintain silence during periods of the day merely for the purpose of punishment; and, the performance of repetitive, nonfunctional, degrading and unnecessary tasks. . . ."

Therefore, we hold that the enumerated practices, and any similar behavior by officers of the government is cruel and unusual punishment, forbidden, and every person subjected to any of them (except where riotous conditions endangering other persons may require measures to subdue those who may reasonably be expected to hurt themselves or others) shall be...

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24 practice notes
  • State v. Allen, No. 25980.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 1999
    ...Syllabus point 1, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972)." Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. K.W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. J.D.W. v. Harris, 173 W.Va. 690, 319 S.E.2d 815 (1984). Alternatively, "`[a]n action based on 42 U.S.C.......
  • Smith v. West Virginia State Bd. of Educ., No. 15454
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 22, 1982
    ...prisoners); Harrah v. Leverette, 165 W.Va. 665, 271 S.E.2d 322 (1980) (dispensing tear gas on prisoners); State ex rel. K. W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 (1978) (punitive practices); cf. State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972). These cases dealt wi......
  • State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, No. 25155-25158.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1998
    ...319 S.E.2d 815 (1984); Syl. pt. 1, Hickson v. Kellison, 170 W.Va. 732, 296 S.E.2d 855 (1982); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. K.W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 (1978). To be clear, habeas is a vehicle for seeking release from confinement. See Brightman v. Withrow, 172 W.Va. 235, 304 S......
  • State v. Vance, No. 14119
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 22, 1980
    ...tends to broaden as society becomes more civilized and humane. A similar thought was expressed in State ex rel. K. W. v. Werner, W.Va., 242 S.E.2d 907, 910 (1978). In fact, Article III, Section 5 of the West Virginia Constitution,[164 W.Va. 232] which contains the cruel and unusual punishme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • State v. Allen, No. 25980.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 1999
    ...Syllabus point 1, State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972)." Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. K.W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. J.D.W. v. Harris, 173 W.Va. 690, 319 S.E.2d 815 (1984). Alternatively, "`[a]n action based on 42 U.S.C.......
  • Smith v. West Virginia State Bd. of Educ., No. 15454
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 22, 1982
    ...prisoners); Harrah v. Leverette, 165 W.Va. 665, 271 S.E.2d 322 (1980) (dispensing tear gas on prisoners); State ex rel. K. W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 (1978) (punitive practices); cf. State ex rel. Pingley v. Coiner, 155 W.Va. 591, 186 S.E.2d 220 (1972). These cases dealt wi......
  • State ex rel. Anstey v. Davis, No. 25155-25158.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1998
    ...319 S.E.2d 815 (1984); Syl. pt. 1, Hickson v. Kellison, 170 W.Va. 732, 296 S.E.2d 855 (1982); Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. K.W. v. Werner, 161 W.Va. 192, 242 S.E.2d 907 (1978). To be clear, habeas is a vehicle for seeking release from confinement. See Brightman v. Withrow, 172 W.Va. 235, 304 S......
  • State v. Vance, No. 14119
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • January 22, 1980
    ...tends to broaden as society becomes more civilized and humane. A similar thought was expressed in State ex rel. K. W. v. Werner, W.Va., 242 S.E.2d 907, 910 (1978). In fact, Article III, Section 5 of the West Virginia Constitution,[164 W.Va. 232] which contains the cruel and unusual punishme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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