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OWENS-EL v. ROBINSON

October 11, 1978

Kenneth OWENS-EL and Inmates and Future Residents of Allegheny County Jail, Plaintiffs,
v.
William ROBINSON and James Jennings, Defendants. INMATES OF the ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL, Thomas Price Bey, Arthur Goslee, Robert Maloney, and Calvin Milligan on their own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Robert PEIRCE, Chairman, Allegheny County Board of Prison Inspectors and all other members of the Board, James Jennings, Warden Allegheny County Jail, and James Flaherty, Robert Peirce and Thomas Foerster, Commissioners for Allegheny County, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

OPINION, SUPPLEMENTAL FINDINGS OF FACT, AND FINAL ORDER

I.

 History of the Case

 In a separate action in 1976 Neighborhood Legal Services ("NLS") filed a class action suit on behalf of all jail inmates, past, present and future, petitioning for a declaratory judgment holding that the conditions of confinement at the jail were violative of certain constitutional rights of the inmates. The two cases were consolidated for trial and certified as a class action.

 A six week non-jury trial ensued beginning August 15, 1977, at which time we received testimony from some 50 witnesses including experts in the fields of mental health, medicine, penology and hygiene, as well as that of many lay witnesses who, in one capacity or another, were familiar with conditions at the jail. On January 4, 1978, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52, we issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in which we held that in many areas the inmates had, indeed, been deprived of their constitutional rights. The accompanying Order provided for the appointment of an expert to serve as a "Court Advisor" and to monitor the implementation of the requirements of the Order.

 The Opinion, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law were reported under the designation Owens-El v. Robinson at 442 F. Supp. 1368 (D.C.1978). On February 21, 1978 we appointed a former federal warden and expert in penology, Arnold E. Pontesso, to be the Court Advisor. A copy of that Order is appended hereto as Appendix A.

 Mr. Pontesso visited the jail in March and May, 1978, filing a written report with the court each time. He also met with the entire Allegheny County Board of Prison Inspectors (one of the named defendants), conferred many times with the warden and interviewed many jail personnel and inmates.

 On August 17 and 18, 1978, a final hearing was held at which Mr. Pontesso testified as the court's witness and was cross-examined by all counsel and the Pro se plaintiff, Kenneth Owens-El.

 All parties were given the opportunity to submit a proposed final order. Extensive changes had been ordered at the jail in the Order of January 4, 1978, but it had been our intention to keep the case in such a posture that the Order could be amended and modified after receiving the expert opinion of the Court Advisor.

 We have now had the benefit of that expertise and are prepared to make Supplemental Findings of Fact and a final decision and Order from which the parties may appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

 II.

 Previous Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order

 The Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law previously filed (442 F. Supp. 1368 (1978)) are incorporated by reference herein. For ease in reference we will enter an entire final Order here, even including those portions of the January 4, 1978 order which are not changed.

 We do not deem it necessary to make additional Conclusions of Law in this Opinion, since we feel that sufficient Conclusions of Law were made at the time of the January 4, 1978 Order. At this point, we are content to rely on the inherent equitable powers of the court:

 "Once a right and a violation have been shown, the scope of a district court's equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies." Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 15, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 1276, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554, 566 (1971).

 III.

 Guards

 The January 4, 1978 Order required two guards to be present in each occupied cell block at all times. Upon reconsideration we are satisfied that two guards are not required when the inmates have been locked in their cells. The Order will be changed accordingly, but adequate records of job assignments will be required.

 IV.

 Cleanliness and Sanitation

 There has been improvement in the cleanliness and sanitation at the jail, but there are not daily inspections of the cells by jail personnel to check for cleanliness, damage to paint and condition of plumbing and electrical fixtures.

 Jail officials will have to prepare a written program setting forth the daily housekeeping procedure to be followed at the jail.

 A person has not been designated to have primary responsibility for the cleanliness and sanitation at the jail. It is only when this responsibility is delegated to one person that the desired accountability for the sanitary conditions at the jail can be achieved. It would be most desirable to appoint to this position a person trained as a sanitation specialist, but we do not consider it to be within the purview of this court's authority to tell the county authorities whom to appoint to such a position. Nevertheless, it will be their obligation to appoint someone who can assume the responsibility for carrying out the mandates of this order insofar as the cleanliness and sanitation of the jail are concerned, and if necessary, hire a new employee for the position.

 V.

 Electrical and Plumbing Problems

 There has been improvement in the maintenance of electrical fixtures and wiring at the jail, but the problem of obtaining electricians when needed remains. Although the Court Advisor recommended a full-time in-house electrician, we will stop short of ordering that; but it will be necessary to have an electrician available within twenty-four hours from the time one is requested by the warden or his designated representative. A plumber is presently assigned to the jail on a full-time basis. If this arrangement should be discontinued, a plumber will likewise have to be available within twenty-four hours of when requested.

 VI.

 Lighting

 The January 4, 1978 Order required the defendants to install sufficient lighting in the cells to enable an inmate to read a newspaper. To make the standard more definitive, we will require that each cell be furnished with at least a 100 watt light bulb.

 VII.

 Distribution of Clothing, Bedding, Towels and Toilet Articles

 It is difficult to understand why the distribution of bedding and towels should continue to present such a problem at the jail. Our Order required that each inmate be provided a clean towel, clean sheet and clean blanket which should be laundered once a week. Mr. Pontesso and others testified that while the situation has improved there are still occasions where there are shortages of bedding and towels.

 Our Order also required that soap, toothbrush and toothpaste be furnished without charge to inmates having less than $ 2.00. It appears more feasible, and we will direct, that All incoming inmates be furnished these items without charge, since the jail personnel have not devised a systematic method of implementing the previous Order concerning those items.

 It may be that someone with experience as a supply sergeant in the military service should be employed to oversee the distribution of these articles to incoming inmates and the collection of towels, bedding, etc. from departing inmates. Again, we will not direct the defendants to hire a person with particular training for this task, but we will direct the defendants to arrange the table of organization at the jail so that one person on each shift will have responsibility for seeing that this mandate is carried out pursuant to a written procedure for such distribution.

 There has been some confusion as to the definition of "adequate clothing" as used in our January 4, 1978 Order wherein we directed the defendants to furnish clothing to "each inmate who does not have adequate clothing when entering the jail . . . ." We will better define the clothing to be supplied in the Order. The defendants will be required to develop a written procedure for such distribution.

 VIII.

 Laundry

 Our January 4, 1978 Order required that free laundry service be provided all inmates at least once a week. A chronic problem is that prisoners operating the laundry require "pay" from inmates desiring laundry service. This problem can be avoided by jail personnel developing a plan whereby the inmates do not have face-to-face contact with the laundry workers when they bring their wash to the laundry.

 IX.

 Rules and Regulations Manual

 The inmates often do not know what they are entitled to. The Rules and Regulations Manual will be revised to reflect in clear and easy-to-understand language what items, supplies, and services the inmate is entitled to pursuant to the terms of the Order accompanying this Opinion. In addition some jail employee must be assigned the job of verbally informing inmates of what supplies and services they are entitled to.

 X.

 Restraints

 Although since the January 4, 1978 Order a log has been kept relative to those inmates who were placed in restraints, it appears to be kept in almost Pro forma fashion. Our Order will further refine the circumstances under which restraints may be used and the method of record keeping required.

 XI.

 Psychiatric Training for Nurses

 It would appear that the requirement in our January 4, 1978 Order of one psychiatric nurse on duty at the jail at all times is not feasible. (Paragraph 14 of the January 4, 1978 Order). The defendants used their best efforts to employ such nurses without success. It also became apparent that the employment of psychiatric nurses would create morale and administrative problems with respect to other nurses at the jail who did not have such training. We will therefore modify the Order to require only that nurses employed at the jail be given a course in the handling of patients with mental problems.

 XII.

 Mail

 It is not feasible to open all incoming mail in the presence of the inmate addressee, and the Order will be modified accordingly.

 XIII.

 Law Library

 The defendants informally requested, and the plaintiffs' class, through its attorneys, informally consented to, reconsideration by the court of its Order pertaining to the contents of the law library ordered for the jail. We will modify the Order so as to reduce the number of case reporters which the ...


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