prisoners remained locked in their housing units except while dining. (It should be noted that February 19th was a Saturday, February 20th was a Sunday, and February 21st was a national holiday.)
On Tuesday, February 22nd, plans were made to attempt to put the Institution back to work on February 23rd and work schedules were posted for shop areas and maintenance details. It was decided, however, that Industry could not be put back on such short notice and Industry employees were to be allowed to go into indoor recreation areas. On February 23rd, all inmates were then released but, at 4:00 P.M., the plan was cancelled and the inmates returned to their units when, according to administration sources, certain inmates in the recreation areas were agitating the men not to return to work. That evening, after I and J honor units, which defense witnesses described as "normally pro-administration", had hesitated about going back to work, a staff committee of four went into these units to determine sentiment and came back with a report that the prisoners desired that the first committee be reactivated and allowed to meet, with observers attending who could inform the prison population whether the committee was honestly interested in presenting grievances. The need for observers was apparently necessitated by the fact that the prison population had received conflicting versions from the Administration and the first committee as to what had occurred in the discussions on February 16th between prison officials and the committee.
Pursuant to this, on February 24th at 11:30 A.M., the eleven members of the first committee confined to segregation and the five members who remained in population met with four observers, two having been selected by I and J units and two by the administration. A very hectic meeting developed as the committee members felt the observers were sent to the meeting by prison officials to cause confusion and disruption and, after several heated exchanges, the committee asked the observers to leave, and they complied. At 4:00 P.M., a written communication was sent to the Warden requesting that the committee members in segregation be allowed to return to their quarters and, if he so agreed, the committee would meet on a "morning-noon-nightly basis, beginning on/or about 7:00 P.M. tonight, with sincere hopes of bringing this matter toward further positive developments". The Warden denied this request because "I did not consider this a grievance from the population, but just another pre-condition." Later at 8:15 P.M., another communication was forwarded to the Warden requesting an open meeting in the Auditorium, access to the P.A. system, allowing committee members to mingle among the general population and use of the mimeograph machine. The Warden describing the requests as "pre-conditions without even mentioning grievances" rejected all of them. The committee continued to meet until 10:00 P.M., and during most of this period they were bogged down in a dispute as to whether they should continue to refuse to negotiate until the Warden would formally recognize them in writing. One of the Spanish-speaking members of the committee requested the committee to inform the Warden that if he agreed to formally recognize them, they would ask all inmates to return to work immediately. This was voted down whereupon the Spanish-speaking member advised the committee that he would pull all Spanish-speaking inmates out of the work stoppage and, as a result, the proposal was reconsidered and accepted. The committee then adjourned at 10:00 P.M., eleven inmates returning to segregation and five to population.
The following morning, Friday, February 25, the committee reconvened and was apprised by the five inmates in population that the inmates were very upset about the suggestion that they go back to work and the Spanish-speaking inmates, in particular, felt they were being sold out. In addition, the Warden presented the committee with a written memorandum in which he stated that he was "almost convinced" that they did not intend to submit grievances but continued to furnish "nothing but the same pre-conditions using different words". He advised them that they would be allowed to meet on a daily "round the clock" basis "until you are able to produce some grievances representing the general population". The committee was orally told that the Warden would reply to all submitted grievances within two weeks in the Friday Flier (the prison newspaper); that the grievances would be mailed to sixteen people chosen by the committee, and that a minimum custody inmate would be allowed to go to the town of Lewisburg to see that these letters were properly mailed. According to plaintiffs Alger and Phillips, the committee felt that to submit a written list of grievances to be answered in two weeks in the Friday Flier was no different from writing a complaint letter to the Administration and was just another instance of the administration's ignoring complaints by "throwing them in a drawer". Plaintiffs concede that the committee did not want to prepare grievances until the Warden officially recognized it but, according to plaintiff Irwin, at 2:00 P.M. it was decided by a vote of 13 to 2 to treat the Warden's Policy Statement as "legal recognition of the committee" and work was started on grievances. Committee member Scully told Deputy Warden Cansler that the grievances would be ready by 3:00 P.M. At 4:00 P.M. Cansler entered the meeting room and was advised by Scully that they would be ready in 10 minutes. After waiting 10 minutes, Cansler returned and was told the committee would be finished in "just a little while". Cansler testified that he observed some unused stencils and "saw nothing in evidence that they were putting grievances together".
The committee stated that it wanted another meeting at 7:30 P.M. but Cansler rejected this indicating that the Warden had to inform the Bureau of Prisons before 5:00 P.M. whether the prison would be back in operation on Monday.
Scully then apprised Cansler that it would take at least two more hours before they could finish their grievances and Cansler, convinced that this was a stalling tactic to prolong the strike, demanded the list immediately and, when none was forthcoming, he terminated the meeting, dismissed the committee and returned them to segregation. Because of the lack of progress and the building of tensions, Warden Alldredge decided he had to change direction and arrangements were made to send interviewing teams into each housing unit to interview all inmates to ascertain if they were willing to return to work.
On Saturday morning, February 26th, fifteen teams of two men each, interviewed all inmates, approximately 1250, and exhibited a questionnaire which stated, inter alia, that the administration had concluded that the inmate committee had no intention of preparing grievances and that it was in the best interests of all not to continue the situation indefinitely. Each inmate was asked to indicate in writing whether he was willing to return to work with an admonition that a negative answer may be cause for disciplinary action. A substantial majority indicated a willingness to go back to work, but 311 others, including plaintiff Richard Moore
and William McAllester
refused to respond affirmatively.
The next day, Sunday, February 27th, the non-complying inmates were either placed in segregation or confined in E and F dormitories.
At 10:00 A.M. on Monday, February 28th, a work call was issued over the P.A. system and 942 inmates returned to work. Later, the housing units were canvassed and it was discovered that 6 men had refused to answer the work call and they were placed in segregation. The situation steadily improved, although information was received that certain hard core groups were advocating the revival of the strike, the taking of hostages, and attempts at sabotage. The segregated inmates remained in that status until Saturday, March 4th, when the inmates in E and F units were interviewed and all but two agreed to return to work; those refusing were continued in segregated status. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on March 17, 1972.
Prior to analyzing the factual issues, we start with the oft-repeated comment of the Supreme Court in Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285, 68 S. Ct. 1049, 1060, 92 L. Ed. 1356 (1948) that "[lawful] incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system". Furthermore, even those rights which survive penal confinement may be diluted by peculiar institutional requirements of discipline, safety, and security. Nevertheless, prison officials do not have carte blanche to disregard a prisoner's constitutional rights, even in the name of prison discipline, Owens v. Brierley, 452 F.2d 640, 642 (3rd Cir. 1971), and the courts have not hesitated to entertain actions asserting violations of fundamental rights. Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 577 (8th Cir. 1968). However, a prisoner has only such rights as can be exercised without impairing the requirements of prison discipline. Sostre v. McGinnis, 334 F.2d 906, 908 (2d Cir. 1964). As expressed by our Court of Appeals in Gittlemacker v. Prasse, 428 F.2d 1 (1970):
"To determine, with precision, those rights which follow an inmate into prison involves a process of weighing and balancing conflicting interests. The desire that there be a maximum opportunity for the exercise of rights and privileges may often collide with the practical necessities of managing and administering a complicated penal community. The task of striking the proper balance between these conflicting interests is generally within the competence of the prison authorities. Thus, the federal courts have been understandably reluctant to intervene in matters of state prison administration, recognizing that a wide latitude for judgment and discretion must be extended to prison officials."