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Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht

January 29, 1985

INMATES OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL, THOMAS PRICE BEY, ARTHUR GOSLEE, HARRY SMITH, ROBERT MALONEY AND CALVIN MILLIGAN ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
CYRIL H. WECHT, PRESIDENT OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF PRISON INSPECTORS AND THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE BOARD; THOMAS FOERSTER AND WILLIAM HUNT, COMMISSIONERS FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY, FRANK J. LUCCHINO, CONTROLLER FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY, EUGENE COON, SHERIFF FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY, THE HONORABLE PATRICK R. TAMILIA, MICHAEL J. O'MALLEY AND MARION K. FINKELHOR, JUDGES COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY; RICHARD S. CALIGURI, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH, HARRIET MCCRAY, MONSG. CHARLES OWEN RICE AND CHARLES KOZAKIEWICZ, WARDEN OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL, AND WILLIAM B. ROBINSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PRISON INSPECTORS AND CYRIL WECHT, THOMAS FOERSTER AND WILLIAM H. HUNT, AS COMMISSIONERS OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, APPELLANTS



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA - PITTSBURGH. D.C. Civil No. 76-0743.

Author: Gibbons

Before GIBBONS and BECKER, Circuit Judges, and VAN DUSEN, Senior Circuit Judge

GIBBONS, Circuit Judge

County Officials of Allegheny County appeal from two orders entered by the United States District Court to the long-standing dispute over conditions at the Allegheny County Jail. In No. 84-3191 they appeal from an order dated March 13, 1984, denying their motion for modification of a May 25, 1983 order placing maximum population limits for male and female inmates in the jail. In No. 84-3024 the county officials appeal from an order dated December 30, 1983, directing them to pay a sanction of $5,000 for each prisoner released from the jail in order to comply with the inmate population limits. We affirm in No. 84-3191, and vacate and remand in No. 84-3024.

I. Prior Proceedings

A. The 1978 and 1980 Proceedings

On January 4, 1978 the district court, after a six-week trial in a class action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (1982), held that the conditions in which inmates of the jail were held violated the United States Constitution in numerous respects. Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. 1368 (W.D. Pa. 1978). In order to remedy those violations the court appointed a master to make a report and recommendations. The court adopted the master's recommendations in a final injunction dated October 11, 1978. Owens-El v. Robinson, 457 F. Supp. 984 (W.D. Pa. 1978). The defendants did not appeal. The class representatives, however, appealed with respect to three requested remedies not included in the judgment. This court in Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754 (3d Cir. 1979) affirmed the district court on two of the issues, but remanded for further consideration of changes in the decree necessary to raise the level of pyschiatric care at the jail to the minimum required by the Constitution. After a five-day non-jury trial the district court in Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Pierce, 487 F. Supp. 638 (W.D. Pa. 1980) found that the conditions in the jail with respect to care of mentally ill inmates amounted to deliberate indifference within the meaning of Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976). The court also found that the provisions of the October 11, 1978 final injunction had not been fully complied with, and on April 17, 1980 entered an order directing that the October 11, 1978 order be fully implemented, and that specific steps be taken to remedy deliberate indifference to the care of mentally ill inmates. Inmates, 487 F. Supp. at 643-45. No appeal was taken from the April 17, 1980 judgment.

B. The April 1983 Proceedings

At the time of the October 11, 1978 judgment the inmate population of the jail had not been found to be a factor contributing to the constitutional violations identified by the court. Indeed in 1975 the average daily inmate population was only 429, and the court found that "overcrowding of the institution is not a problem." Owens-El, 442 F. Supp at 1376. By April of 1983, however, conditions in the jail had been radically altered by an increase in the average daily inmate population to 690. The class representatives brought the deteriorating conditions to the district court's attention by moving to hold the defendants in contempt for failing to comply with the October 11, 1978 and April 17, 1980 orders, and for additional relief. The court held a six-day hearing on these motions, and found ongoing violations of both the October 11, 1978 and April 17, 1980 orders. Despite the seriousness of many of the violations, the court held that the conduct of the defendants did not rise to the level of contempt. The defendants moved to dismiss the motion for additional relief. The trial court denied this motion, holding that the class representatives had made an adequate showing of the need for such relief. The court credited the testimony of defendant William B. Robinson, a prior warden and currently Executive Director of the Allegheny County Prison Board, that the maximum number of inmates should be 475-500 males in the main unit, 63 males in the receiving unit, and 38 in the female section. On May 5, 1983 when the court toured the jail, the inmate population was 705. Robinson forecasted that if present arrest and sentencing trends continued the average daily population would eventually rise to 940. Summarizing its detailed findings of fact, the trial court observed:

The jail is now dangerously overcrowded. Fires and prisoner unrest are an ever-present danger in any penal setting. here they could result in disaster. The Allegheny County Jail is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

App. 57a (emphasis in original). Not finding the overcrowding to be for the express purpose of inflicting punishment, the court nevertheless held it to be a constitutional violation because the sole justification advanced for the crowded conditions was Allegheny County's disinclination, for economic reasons, to spend the funds necessary to provide additional facilities. "As a result" the trial court continued, "the jail remains with us -- old, dilapidated and unconstitutionally overcrowded." App. 98a. Moreover, the court observed "this condition impedes the implementation of the 1978 and 1980 orders. Therefore, an order to reduce the overcrowding not only is within our power to correct the constitutional violations, but also falls within our remedial powers to modify and enforce our previous orders." App.99a. Accordingly on May 25, 1983 the court ordered:

The population of the Allegheny County Jail [shall] be reduced as follows:

a. After July 1, 1983, there shall be no more than 650 male and 60 female inmates housed in the Jail.

b. After August 15, 1983, there shall be no more than 600 male and 50 female inmates housed in the Jail.

c. After October 1, 1983, there shall be no more than 550 male and 40 female inmates housed in the Jail.

d. After January 1, 1984, there shall be no more than 500 male and 30 female inmates housed in the Jail.App. 104a. No appeal was taken from the May 25, 1983 order.

C. The October 1983 Proceedings

Initially the defendants complied with the population caps. On August 4, 1983, however, they moved for relief from the May 25, 1983 order because of the anticipated difficulty in finding alternative arrangements for incarceration. This motion was denied, and no appeal was taken. On September 30, 1983 the defendants moved, again, for relief from the May 25, 1983 order. App. 107a. Their moving papers conceded that on September 30, 1983 the jail population exceeded the October 1, 1983 caps (550 males and 40 females) ...


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