The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL
Introduction and Background
This civil rights class action is familiar to us. It began in 1976 when an action previously filed pro se by an inmate of the Allegheny County Jail (hereinafter referred to as "the jail" or "ACJ") was combined with a civil rights class action filed by Neighborhood Legal Services on behalf of other inmates under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and various amendments to the United States Constitution, challenging the constitutionality of various conditions at ACJ. Following a six week non-jury trial in 1977, we filed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, holding that many of the conditions within ACJ were indeed unconstitutional. See Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. 1368 (W.D.Pa.1978).
After receiving reports and testimony from an appointed Court Advisor concerning jail conditions and possible remedies and a final hearing, we issued a second opinion on October 11, 1978, ordering various reforms, procedures and changes at the jail. See Owens-El v. Robinson, 457 F. Supp. 984 (W.D.Pa.1978). Several portions of the Order were appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which affirmed for the most part. However, the Court of Appeals did remand the case for our further consideration of mental health care for inmates. See Inmates v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754 (3d Cir.1979). Following remand, hearings were held, and a third opinion and order were filed on April 17, 1980 wherein we established guidelines and procedures to be followed and various programs to be implemented regarding mental health care. See Inmates v. Peirce, 487 F. Supp. 638 (W.D.Pa.1980).
During this period, we made several visits to the jail and retained the Court Advisor for a while to be sure that our orders were being followed. Things seemed to be going pretty well.
In April, 1983, however, some three years after the last order, the inmates filed a motion seeking a rule to show cause why the defendants should not be held in contempt for failure to comply with this Court's Orders of October 11, 1978 and April 17, 1980. The plaintiffs also filed a motion for "additional relief." In both motions, the inmates alleged that not all of the requirements of the court orders were being complied with and that many substandard, unconstitutional conditions which existed at ACJ in 1978 still were extant in 1983.
As we did at the initial hearing in 1977, we heard opening statements from the lawyers and then went to visit the jail (May 5, 1983) without having first advised anyone that we would be doing this. We spent several hours touring the jail and had lunch there.
Our first impression was that the jail appeared to be cleaner than before and that prisoner conduct and morale were better than they had been in 1977. Another problem has arisen, however, over which no county official has control -- overcrowding.
Ironically enough, in the first opinion we had said: "Overcrowding of the institution is not a problem. In 1975 the average daily population was 429." 442 F. Supp. at 1376.
We conducted a six-day hearing in connection with these petitions. At the close of the plaintiffs' case, we granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the petition for the contempt rule, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of contempt. We denied, however, defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' request for additional relief because we believed that the plaintiffs had made an adequate showing that the defendants were not in compliance with certain portions of our orders and that additional relief might be warranted.
D. Format of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
We now enter Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in accordance with Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the motion for additional relief.
As we did in our first opinion (442 F. Supp. 1368), we will depart from the traditional format used in organizing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Such a format would be confusing and burdensome in this instance since so many subject areas are under consideration. Therefore, we will divide this opinion into various sections, first considering possible violations of the Order of October 11, 1978 and, secondly, violations of the April 17, 1980 Order.
Last, we will discuss the recent problem of overcrowding.
Inherent in the powers of a United States District Court is the equitable power to mold previous orders and correct wrongs which continue to persist. Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 15, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 1275, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554 (1971); 457 F. Supp. at 985. "The essence of equity jurisdiction has been the power of the Chancellor to do equity and to mold such decree to the necessities of the particular case. Flexibility rather than rigidity has distinguished it." Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 321 U.S. 321, 329, 64 S. Ct. 587, 591, 88 L. Ed. 754 (1944). As times change, remedies fashioned in a particular case may require alterations, modifications or additional reinforcement. Equitable remedies are not chiseled in stone. As a court with equitable powers, we must remain willing to amend orders where justice requires it.
With this principle in mind, we will proceed to review our previous orders in light of the present facts.
Violations of the Order of October 11, 1978
In 1978, we ordered many changes at ACJ. Such changes ranged from requiring a specific number of guards to be stationed in cell blocks (Paragraph 1) to ordering the establishment of a building evacuation plan (Paragraph 29). Prior to ordering these changes, we issued Findings of Fact, describing, inter alia, the physical layout of ACJ, the number of employees, the medical facilities, and the various procedures employed in ACJ for the care and discipline of inmates.
When we entered the Order of October 11, 1978, conditions were deplorable in almost every area of the jail; immediate action in correcting the situation was required. The current situation is quite different. Though the jail is still lacking in a number of areas, and though we consider the present overcrowding to be unconstitutional, the evidence convinces us that the defendants have generally made good-faith efforts to comply with our previous orders.
We note that our opinions and order of 1978 were decided prior to the United States Supreme Court decision in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S. Ct. 1861, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447 (1979). We are mindful of this case and its holding concerning the standard to be applied in prison condition cases involving pretrial detainees. In Wolfish, the Supreme Court set forth the Fifth Amendment Due Process standard to be applied in cases dealing with conditions of jails housing pretrial detainees. The court held that a condition must be found to be imposed for the purpose of punishment rather than serving some other legitimate government purpose before a court may find that it is unconstitutional. Id. at 538, 99 S. Ct. at 1873.
Given the conditions of the jail in 1976-1978, we conclude that the Wolfish standard would have been met and that the totality of the conditions were unconstitutional. We do not at this time see any need to begin a new legal analysis of ACJ conditions.
Paragraph 1 of the 1978 Order states:
There shall be no fewer than two guards stationed on a full time basis in each occupied cell block of the Allegheny County Jail ("jail") during the hours between 8:00 A.M. and evening lock-up of inmates daily. A separate daily log shall be maintained reflecting the names of the guards stationed in the occupied cell blocks, the specific cell blocks to which they were assigned and the particular hours each of the guards worked in the cell blocks.
We find that the guards have been consistently ordered from the cell blocks to patrol the dining hall, leaving only one guard to a block. This is partially due to overcrowding. Meals are being served almost continuously; therefore, it is rare that two guards are on a cell block at the same time. The logbooks do not reflect these moves. It is vital for security's ...