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KNUCKLES v. PRASSE

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


July 31, 1969

William E. KNUCKLES, Arthur L. McKee, Isaiah Green and Joseph Tillery, Plaintiffs,
v.
Arthur T. PRASSE, Commissioner of Correction, Joseph R. Brierley, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Philadelphia, and Alfred T. Rundle, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Defendants. James WASHINGTON, Plaintiff, v. J. R. BRIERLEY, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Philadelphia, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: HIGGINBOTHAM

HIGGINBOTHAM, District Judge.

 I.

 INTRODUCTION

 These two consolidated actions under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.A. ยง 1983, lead us into the difficult area where the exigencies of effective prison administration threaten to collide with those constitutionally protected freedoms assured all persons not in prison. Plaintiffs are five prisoners in the Pennsylvania State Correctional System. Knuckles, McKee, Green and Tillery were inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania (hereinafter referred to as "Graterford") during most of the time relevant hereto. Washington was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereinafter referred to as "Philadelphia") during most of the time relevant hereto.

 The plaintiffs allege that they were:

 (1) Denied the right to practice their religion in violation of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment; and

 (2) Denied the privilege of religious practice available to members of other faiths in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and P(3) Harrassed and punished with particular harshness because of their religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment; and

 (4) Subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

 After careful consideration of plaintiffs' allegations, I appointed Walter L. Foulke, Esquire to represent them. Mr. Foulke represented the plaintiffs with commendable diligence by both a most meticulous preparation and an effective presentation at considerable time, effort and costs. Apparently, the law firm, with which he was then associated, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, absorbed the financial costs in this matter.

 A six day hearing produced some 925 pages of testimony and ninety exhibits. Extensive briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law were submitted, and there was subsequent oral argument.

 Prior to oral argument, plaintiffs filed additional actions naming Clarence R. Wolfe and David N. Meyers as defendants. These actions were identical to the above-captioned actions and were filed in the apparent belief that the testimony taken in the hearing revealed the direct responsibility of these two men for the alleged wrongdoings. Wolfe and Meyers were present during the entire hearing and were satisfied that their interests were fully represented by counsel for the Commonwealth. They therefore agreed to be joined as defendants in these actions and to be considered as though they had been defendants from the outset. Plaintiffs, in return, agreed to dismiss the additional actions against Wolfe and Meyers. Some time after the hearing and oral argument, Mr. Foulke joined the staff of the Philadelphia District Attorney, and I reassigned plaintiffs' cases to Morris R. Brooke, Esquire, who had been associated with Mr. Foulke in their preparation.

  Two sets of facts and their legal consequences call for attention here. There are questions about plaintiffs' constitutional rights and privileges to practice the Muslim religion while in prison. There are also questions about the treatment directed against four of the plaintiffs after they took part in the Graterford incident of May 23, 1966. For reasons to be elaborated below, I find that while certain of the restrictions placed on plaintiffs' practice of the Muslim religion were constitutionally valid, other restrictions were constitutionally invalid. Accordingly, plaintiffs must be given somewhat expanded rights to practice the Muslim religion. At the same time, it must be clearly understood that prison authorities continue to have the right to subject the practices of the followers of the Muslim religion or the followers of any other religion to "reasonable regulations, necessary for the protection and welfare of the community involved." Long v. Parker, 390 F.2d 816 at 820 (3rd Cir., 1968).

 I further find that after the Graterford incident, plaintiffs were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment from the morning of May 23, 1966, until the afternoon of May 25, 1966 in violation of the Eighth Amendment, but since it does not appear that this unfortunate two and one-half day practice has been or will be continued, injunctive relief is DENIED.

 A final decree is held in abeyance for thirty (30) days so that counsel may explore, and hopefully stipulate to, specific methods for affording relief to plaintiffs consistent with this opinion.

 II.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiffs in Civil Action No. 41,170, are William E. Knuckles (C4410), Arthur L. McKee (H3683), Isaiah James Green (E9329), and Joseph Tillery (H5318).

 2. Plaintiff in Civil Action No. 42,445, is James Washington.

 3. Defendant, Arthur T. Prasse, at all times relevant hereto was Commissioner of the Bureau of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is qualified as an expert in prison administration, penology and corrections.

 4. Defendant, David N. Meyers, from before May 1966 until 12:00 A.M., May 25, 1966, was Superintendent at Graterford. He is qualified as an expert in prison administration, penology, and corrections.

 5. Defendant, Clarence R. Wolfe, was Deputy Superintendent at Graterford, and in that position he was directly responsible for disciplinary proceedings and the administration of the maximum security cell block. He is qualified as an expert in prison administration, penology, and corrections.

 6. Defendant, Joseph R. Brierly, at all times relevant hereto was Deputy Superintendent, and thereafter until now was, and is, Superintendent at Philadelphia. He is qualified as an expert in prison administration, penology, and corrections.

 7. Defendant, Alfred T. Rundle, from 1961 through May 25, 1966, was Superintendent at Philadelphia, and thereafter was, and is, the Superintendent at Graterford. He is qualified as an expert in prison administration, penology, and corrections.

 8. From before May, 1966, to the present, all of the plaintiffs have been and are followers of the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

 9. The followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, often called Muslims or Black Muslims, are a sect of the Islamic Religion, and for purposes of the issues before the court are recognized as members of a bona fide religion. In their brief, defendants stated:

 

"For the purposes of these actions, it is admitted that Black Muslimism is a 'religion' as that term is used in the United States Constitution."

 

(P. 3, Brief for Defendants.)

 10. At all times relevant hereto, the defendant prison officials in the prisons under their control and direction did not permit the Muslims to

 

(a) congregate for prayer meetings or services;

 

(b) have the assistance and counselling of a Muslim minister;

 

(c) subscribe to Muslim periodicals;

 

(d) receive certain Muslim books;

 

(e) correspond with Muslim ministers or with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad;

 

(f) receive and wear Muslim medals; or

 

(g) have special dietary programs consistent with their religious beliefs.

 11. The policy outlined in paragraph 10 is followed primarily because defendants believe that the presence and activities of Muslims in prison creates a dangerous situation.

 12. The Muslim religion forbids adherents from eating pork, pork products, or food which has been cooked in or mixed with pork or pork products.

 13. The Holy Qur'an is the central book of the Muslim religion and contains its basic teachings and principles.

 14. Followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad prefer the edition of the Holy Qur'an which contains both the Arabic and English language versions of the text.

 15. Prior to October 18, 1967, members of the general prison population were permitted to obtain a copy of the Holy Koran from the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. This edition contains only the English version of the text.

 16. By letter of October 18, 1967, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania advised defendant, Arthur T. Prasse, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections, inter alia, that:

 

"(b) Any inmate may purchase a Koran or Qur'an or Quran directly from any recognized publisher, provided the edition * * * has first been submitted to the Bureau * * * for examination and approval. Approval shall be given unless the particular edition * * * is detrimental to the administration, safety or security of a correctional institution. * * *"

 17. The books, Message to the Blackman In America, and The Supreme Wisdom, contain the basic teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, including his interpretations of the basic tenets of the Muslim religion and their application to present day facts and circumstances.

 18. The periodical, Muhammad Speaks, contains, inter alia, articles about the accomplishments of non-whites.

 19. Throughout Message to the Blackman In America, The Supreme Wisdom, and issues of Muhammad Speaks, there are references to members of the Caucasian race as "devils", enslavers of Negroes, and the national enemy of Negroes and other non-white races.

 20. Every issue of Muhammad Speaks contains a statement of the Muslim Program and Beliefs as reprinted in part in footnote 10 below, pages 1050 and 1051.

 21. The Muslim teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad found in Message to the Blackman In America, The Supreme Wisdom, and issues of Muhammad Speaks, are readily susceptible to a broad range of contradictory and varied interpretations:

 (a) From one perspective a rational person could interpret the writings and teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as an endorsement of a concept of intense hatred for all whites, who are referred to as "devils". Further, these writings and teachings could be interpreted as an endorsement of a concept that whites generally and prison authorities should be defied by Muslim prisoners even when legal orders or demands are made.

  (b) From another perspective, a rational person could interpret the writings and teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as merely a partisan historical analysis of this nation's shameful history of slavery and a condemnation of racial discrimination, past and present, in the United States and other Anglo-Saxon nations.

 The latter view sees Black Muslim teachings as merely harsh protests against past racial injustice, urging that such injustices be eradicated by non-violent means. One of the ways to eradicate injustices, according to the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, is to recognize the futility of ever getting whites to accept the black man on the basis of full equality. Therefore, Black Muslims must learn the necessity of supporting black separatism.

 22. Either of the inferences as suggested in Finding 21(a) or Finding 21(b) would be permissible and undoubtedly many persons within the prison population, and many outside of the prison population, would adopt inference (a) and many would adopt inference (b) as fair interpretations of those teachings.

 23. It is not unreasonable or irrational for some prison administrators to believe that the Muslim teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad found in the Message to the Blackman In America, The Supreme Wisdom, and issues of Muhammad Speaks are readily susceptible to an interpretation that might encourage aggressive hostility toward white prisoners and prison officials as well as toward Negroes who refuse to become Muslims. This interpretation might encourage Muslim prisoners to assist fellow Muslims who are being disciplined for infractions of prison rules.

 24. Minister Jeremiah Shabazz, who testified at the trial, is an experienced Muslim minister, qualified to explain the teachings of the Muslim religion set out in the publications discussed above and the duties incumbent upon a Muslim adherent.

 25. According to Minister Jeremiah Shabazz, Muslims are required by their religion to refrain from acts of aggression against others, to refrain from the consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs, and to be obedient to those in lawful authority. Muslims are urged to be industrious, just, truthful, and prayerful and to obey the dietary rules.

 26. Minister Jeremiah Shabazz has visited various prisons on more than twenty occasions and has spoken to hundreds of Muslim prisoners and exprisoners. He has also conducted Muslim services in prison on several occasions. He is not, however, an expert in the operation of a prison.

 27. Breaches of prison discipline in Pennsylvania caused by Muslims allegedly carrying out the teachings of their religion - including that at Philadelphia in September, 1959, and that at Graterford in May, 1966 - involved Muslims who were not receiving regular teaching or counselling from a Muslim Minister.

 28. If permitted, Minister Jeremiah Shabazz would counsel and conduct services for Muslim prisoners at Graterford and at Philadelphia.

 29. Religious services are regularly held for prisoners of the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths and are conducted by ministers and rabbis of the respective religions.

 30. The Roman Catholic Chaplain at Graterford holds mass every Sunday and on Holy Days, and is permitted to pass freely throughout the prison and to visit the maximum security cell block.

 31. A prison guard is always present at the Catholic services.

 32. Minister Jeremiah Shabazz would not object to the presence of prison guards at services conducted by him in prison.

 33. No evidence has been submitted of a breach of prison discipline by Muslim prisoners following and/or attributable to the preachings in prison of Minister Jeremiah Shabazz or any other Muslim Minister.

  34. The presence in a prison of the Muslim publications, Message to the Blackman In America, The Supreme Wisdom, and issues of Muhammad Speaks, create a danger that:

 (a) Muslims will interpret the language to require that they act contrary to the demands of orderly prison administration; and

 (b) Non-Muslim Negroes will fear that Muslims will act aggressively in trying to recruit them or will ostracize those who will not join; and

 (c) White prisoners will fear that Muslims will act aggressively toward them; and

 (d) These fears will increase tension in the prison and lead to instability and an increased probability of hostile outbursts, conflict among the prisoners, or other breaches of prison discipline.

 35. The members of the Muslim group tend to stick together in prison and to exclude non-Muslims from their group. They also actively and aggressively recruit other Negroes.

 36. There are numerous groups and sub-groups in the prison community formed along such lines as age, crime for which sentenced, job within prison. To some degree all of these groups exclude outsiders. The members of all such groups tend to stick together.

 37. Some minor disciplinary problems are handled by the offending inmate's prison chaplain. Often the prisoner will correct his behavior without necessitating that prison officials take formal disciplinary measures against him.

 38. Pennsylvania prison administrators object to the following Black Muslim activities in prison:

 (a) The Muslims stick together and advocate separation of the races;

 (b) The Muslims actively and aggressively recruit new members, causing distress and fear among many prospective recuits;

 (c) The Muslims advocate unconditional release for all Muslims held in prison;

 (d) The Muslims interfere with prison discipline by preventing guards from disciplining other Muslims who have violated prison rules or by demanding that they too be punished if their "brother" is. These activities and beliefs raise the tension level in the prison.

 39. Prison officials fear that allowing Muslims to wear even non-dangerous medallions would be detrimental to prison discipline because it would identify the wearers as members of the Muslim group.

 40. Some Muslim prisoners were introduced to the Muslim beliefs and became Muslims in prison.

 41. There is a prison policy at Graterford, generally enforced by the chaplains, not to permit the prisoners to write to the heads of their religions.

 42. There is a prison policy at Graterford not to permit the prisoners to subscribe to out-of-state newspapers. However, prisoners may subscribe to the Christian Science Monitor, which is published outside of Pennsylvania.

 43. At all times relevant hereto James Washington was in custody at Philadelphia and thus had no connection with the Graterford incident of May 23, 1966. Knuckles, McKee, Green and Tillery (sometimes called "the plaintiffs"), complain of the treatment they received after that incident.

 44. On May 23, 1966, at 10:00 or 10:30 A.M., about 120 inmates of a total prison population of 1500 were in the general recreation yard. About fourteen of the inmates, all followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, were gathered together in the yard. When a non-Muslim inmate tried either to join or pass through the area occupied by the group or ran into one of the group, the Muslims turned on him, struck him and kicked him numerous times. They also struck and kicked another inmate.

 45. When guards tried to break up the fight, some of the Muslims, including perhaps one or more of the plaintiffs, physically attacked them.

  46. A few minutes after the guards arrived the Muslim group stopped fighting and formed a small circle.

 47. The fourteen Muslims were taken into the main corridor of the prison and "strip searched". They were then told to dress, were handcuffed together in pairs and marched to the maximum security cell block (hereinafter referred to as " Maximum security").

 48. A "strip search" consists of the following:

 (a) The person to be searched is made to disrobe completely;

 (b) He is made to expose to inspection the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet;

 (c) He is made to open his mouth for inspection;

 (d) He is made to bend over from the waist and spread his buttocks for inspection; and

 (e) Finally, his hair is examined.

 49. In a maximum security prison the "strip search" is necessary to prevent the transportation of contraband.

  50. When the Muslims arrived in maximum security, they were stripped, searched, and placed two inmates to a cell, in cells numbered 1 through 5, and one inmate per cell in cell 6 and cell 7 as follows:

  Cell No. 1 - William Knuckles and Isaiah Green.

  Cell No. 2 - Edwin Walker and Leon Bard.

  Cell No. 3 - John Hosendorf and Wendel Green.

  Cell No. 4 - Alex Howard and Joseph Tillery.

  Cell No. 5 - Arthur McKee and Willie Haywood.

  Cell No. 6 - Ronald Foster.

  Cell No. 7 - Harold Brooks.

  51. Prior to the placement of these inmates in maximum security, there were 13 vacant cells, not including those reserved for inmates under sentence of death.

  52. After their placement in maximum security there were six vacant cells, not including those reserved for inmates under sentence of death.

  53. None of the occupied cells in maximum security contained more than one inmate except cells 1 through 5.

  54. At the time the inmates were admitted to maximum security, prison officials feared that further outbreaks might occur that day.

  55. The inmates were placed two to a cell to segregate them as much as possible, to seal off their disturbing influence, and to leave a few cells vacant in the event further outbreaks necessitated the rapid segregation of offending prisoners.

  56. The inmates listed in paragraph 50 above were placed in the cells in maximum security without any clothes, bedding, or toilet articles, including soap, towels and tissue paper.

  57. The maximum security cells measured six feet by nine feet, eleven inches. The following were their physical characteristics on May 23, 1966. Each cell contained a concrete single piece commode with a water pipe extending from the wall and located about two and one-half feet above its top. The water pipe and commode were operated by two pedals located on the floor at the base of the commode. Each cell contained a steel bed attached to the wall with steel slats serving in place of springs. A smaller rectangular drain was located in one corner of the floor at the rear of each cell. In no cell were there any windows or artificial lights.

  58. When the plaintiffs were placed in the cells on May 23, 1966, there were no mattresses, sheets, blankets, towels, soap or toilet paper there.

  59. Because maximum security draws on a separate stock of supplies, it is routine and accepted practice to place inmates in maximum security cells without clothing, bedding, or toilet articles. These items are issued to all inmates placed there from the general prison population or from other prisons on transfer as soon as possible.

  60. Approximately one hour after the plaintiffs were placed in their cells they were issued two blankets each by the guards.

  61. There is no evidence that prison officials feared that the plaintiffs would commit suicide or intentionally damage clothing, bedding or toilet articles issued to them.

  62. Contrary to applicable prison regulations and to any reasonable practice, the prisoners placed in maximum security on the morning of May 23, 1966, did not receive clothing, bedding, or toilet articles until the afternoon of May 25, 1966.

  63. Because of the age of the facilities, the mechanisms which ran the water pipe and the toilet often did not work. This meant that the toilet or water pipe often could not be turned on or off.

  64. When the water was turned on, it often splashed on the floor because there was no way to cover the toilet. The cells became damp and chilly despite the prison officials' practice of keeping the heat slightly above normal.

  65. The prisoners had to use the blankets issued to them to wipe up the water and cover the commode so that one inmate in each of cells 1 through 5 could sleep on the floor. Each prisoner was thus left with one blanket to use as bedding and cover.

  66. The Graterford incident of May 23, 1966, was one of the most serious in the last fifteen years and could have become a general riot if not quickly contained. It was one of the few incidents which prompted prison officials to send a riot alert to state police.

  Following the incident, prison officials and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted an investigation and lodged criminal charges against Knuckles, Green, Tillery and McKee for riot, assault, and conspiracy.

  67. On May 25, 1966, the prisoners appeared for a hearing before Deputy Superintendent Wolfe at the Graterford Behavior Clinic.

  68. As a result of the hearing, the prisoners were remanded to maximum security to await trial.

  69. On May 26, 1966, the prisoners were arraigned in Montgomery County Court and were then returned to maximum security at Graterford.

  70. At the time of the Graterford incident, the defendant prison officials knew that the plaintiffs referred to themselves and were referred to by others as Muslims or Black Muslims.

  71. Responsible prison officials, including the prison doctor, visited maximum security between the time plaintiffs were placed in their cells there and the time they were first issued clothing and bedding.

  72. When inmates are charged with assault, it is the routine and accepted practice in Pennsylvania prisons to keep them segregated until their trials are completed.

  73. At Graterford, the same facility is used for administrative and punitive segregation. The only difference between the two is that the prisoner in administrative segregation gets more privileges, such as visitation rights and pencil and paper.

  74. At Philadelphia there are separate cell blocks for administrative and punitive segregation.

  75. During their first three days in segregation, plaintiffs were not permitted to exercise outside of their cells and were on "reduced diets."

  76. With a "reduced diet" the inmate gets slightly less food than is normally given to inmates in the general prison population and no dessert.

  77. At Graterford and Philadelphia, prisoners in maximum security who wish to participate in outside exercise must undergo a "strip search" before leaving and again before re-entering their cells.

   78. It is the general and accepted prison practice to require maximum security prisoners to undergo a "strip search" each time they go out and return from exercise.

  79. While in maximum security and prior to the time they began to accumulate misconducts, plaintiffs were not denied the opportunity to exercise. They were allowed to exercise for one hour per day.

  80. Tillery refused to exercise because he felt that the "strip search" was too degrading and did not wish to undergo it.

  81. Knuckles and McKee also refused the opportunity to exercise, although their reasons do not appear. 82. The periods and places of confinement of the plaintiffs from and after May 23, 1966, until August 11, 1967, was as follows: Knuckles Green Tillery McKee Total days in segregation 455 days 410 days 420 days 410 days Total days in punitive or maximum security segregation 222 days 222 days 337 days 337 days Total days separate administrative segregation unit 223 days 188 days 73 days 73 days Longest consecutive periods in punitive or maximum 189 and 189 and 189 and 189 and security 31 days 31 days 31 days 31 days Number of days in general population 0 days 35 days 25 days 35 days

19690731

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