There is no allegation or evidence that the legal research and services provided by Clinic members to inmates in administrative or disciplinary custody is inadequate. In the absence of other prison programs, eliminating the Clinic would leave those in administrative or disciplinary custody with inadequate access to the library and the courts, in violation of these inmates' fundamental constitutional rights.
B. Functionally Illiterate Inmates
Courts have consistently held that the mere provision of an adequate law library does not necessarily satisfy the constitutional obligation set forth in Bounds. An adequate law library, by itself, cannot provide meaningful access to the courts for those inmates unable to read and understand library materials. See, e.g., Cruz, 627 F.2d 710, 721 ("Library books, even if 'adequate' in number, cannot provide access to the courts for those persons who do not speak English or who are illiterate"); Cody, 599 F. Supp. at 1061 ("a law library, without more, is not sufficient to enable prison inmates . . . unschooled in the basics of legal writing to prepare a petition or complaint") (citation omitted); Glover v. Johnson, 478 F. Supp. 1075, 1096 (E.D. Mich. 1979) (an adequate library "cannot provide meaningful aid to a prisoner unschooled in the most basic techniques of legal research"); Canterino, 562 F. Supp. at 108-112 (mere access to an adequate legal library is unavailing to prisoners lacking sufficient intellectual ability to use the facility).
Defendants' contention that "law libraries alone will adequately satisfy the right to access to the courts" rests upon passages in Bounds stating that prisons must provide "prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law," Bounds, 430 U.S. at 828 (emphasis added) and that "adequate law libraries are one constitutionally acceptable method to assure meaningful access to the courts." Id. at 830. Bounds reviewed a case decided on summary judgment, without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing. Thus, although the Supreme Court rejected the argument that inmates in general are "ill equipped to use" law libraries, id. at 826, there is no indication that the Bounds record included evidence regarding inmate illiteracy. See also Smith v. Bounds, 538 F.2d 541 (4th Cir. 1975) (no discussion of inmate illiteracy).
DuPont v. Saunders, 800 F.2d 8 (1st Cir. 1986) and Cepulonis v. Fair, supra, relied upon by defendants, do not address the question of whether an adequate law library provides functionally illiterate inmates with meaningful access to the courts. Similarly, in Campbell, supra, there was no allegation that the appellant lacked the capacity to utilize the prison's law library.
In Hooks v. Wainwright, 536 F. Supp. 1330 (M.D. Fla. 1982), the court found that more than fifty percent of Florida's inmate population was functionally illiterate. Senior District Judge Scott concluded that no plan utilizing libraries alone could assure meaningful access to the courts, and ordered defendants to provide "assistance of counsel, in some form." Id. at 1349. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, declaring that Bounds does not require states to provide legal counsel to inmates. Hooks v. Wainwright, 775 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir. 1985). However, the appellate court recognized that providing inmates "access to libraries in prison, or access to people who have access to libraries," as I do here, is "a far cry from constitutionally requiring the state to provide legal counsel for the imprisoned." Id. at 1437. Thus, Hooks does not stand for the proposition that an adequate law library provides functionally illiterate inmates with meaningful access to the courts. It merely does not, as I do not here, require counsel as the only meaningful alternative.
It is difficult to determine the precise number of illiterate or functionally illiterate prisoners at Graterford. Evidence was presented on the number of illiterates, the number of functional illiterates, the percentage of prisoners who read at a "pre-functional" level, and the percentage of Clinic clients unable to comprehend legal materials. In most cases the operative terms remained undefined. For purposes of the constitutional right of access to the courts, functional literacy should not be measured in terms of a particular reading level. Rather, functional literacy, for these purposes, means that an inmate can, "with reasonable adequacy," fairly present his complaint to the courts. Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 489, 21 L. Ed. 2d 718, 89 S. Ct. 747 (1969). See also Cruz, 627 F.2d at 720. Surely, all those considered illiterate or who read at a "pre-functional" level are unable to present fairly a complaint or petition to the courts without assistance. Similarly, Spanish-speaking inmates who cannot read or write English are unable to present, with reasonable adequacy, complaints to the courts without assistance. The evidence establishes that a substantial percentage of Graterford inmates are not functionally literate. This evidence merely confirms the Third Circuit's commonsense observation "of the fact that many prisoners are unable to prepare legal materials and file suits without assistance." Rhodes v. Robinson, 612 F.2d 766, 769 (3d Cir. 1979) (Seitz, C.J.).
It is also difficult to determine accurately the percentage of PPLC work done on behalf of functionally illiterate inmates. A Clinic executive was unable to estimate this figure at the March 1985 hearing. In 1978, a PPLC member testified that 80% of his clients were not functionally literate. Within any particular six month period, all the Hispanics who cannot read and understand English are referred to PPLC. The evidence establishes that a substantial percentage of PPLC's work is done for inmates who are not functionally literate.
The legal research aides and educational programs Graterford provides are insufficient to insure that functionally illiterate inmates have meaningful access to the courts. The library staff includes only one trained research aide, and although all aides are supposed to be in the library during working hours, typically at least half the aides are not present. In addition, it appears that only rarely is a Spanish-speaking aide present. Finally, aides are prohibited from providing legal advice to inmates during working hours.
The prison is to be commended for providing a variety of educational programs. However, effectively denying a functionally illiterate inmate meaningful access to the courts until he completes a remedial education program is simply not acceptable. Finally, although inmates are not prohibited from conferring with non-Clinic jailhouse lawyers, there is no evidence regarding the competency of jailhouse lawyers or the ease of meeting and holding confidential legal discussions with them. Although I specifically ordered the presentation of evidence regarding the existence of a system whereby inmates who require legal assistance and inmates who are willing and able to provide legal assistance can officially make their presence known to one another, defendants presented no evidence of any such system. Thus, there is no evidence that, if PPLC is closed, functionally illiterate inmates will have "alternative and readily available means of obtaining assistance of at least equal caliber." Bryan v. Werner, 516 F.2d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 1975). Relying on the prison grapevine to identify jailhouse lawyers is not sufficient to protect prisoners' constitutional rights. For this reason, the rights of functionally illiterate prisoners would be violated if PPLC is eliminated.
C. Security Concerns
Defendants presented evidence that PPLC's use of seven different areas exacerbates security and space problems in the prison. Generally, courts should afford great deference to prison officials in matters concerning the security and administration of prisons. However, prison officials may not restrict the scope of inmates' constitutional rights by making automatic and conclusory assertions of discipline and security in the support of restrictive policies. Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 106 S. Ct. 496, 504, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507 (1985).
The link between problems caused by overcrowding and PPLC's use of prison space is tenuous at best. Graterford's population exceeds capacity by some 400 inmates. I do not underestimate the serious problems this causes prison administrators. However, the main office and office/library are not suitable for housing inmates. The office on E block provides the only space to hold confidential legal discussions for those in administrative or disciplinary custody. Closing the clinic offices on blocks A, B, C and D would provide housing for between 4 and 8 prisoners. However, the constitutional rights of inmates are not to be impaired because the State fails in its duty to provide adequate housing. Thus, the lack of adequate prison housing does not present a justification for closing PPLC.
Defendants presented evidence that the increase in traffic along the main corridor presents security concerns and that Clinic members travel to Clinic offices via the main corridor. With a prison population in excess of 2,500, I reject the notion that the sixteen to twenty Clinic members add significantly to the amount of traffic in the main corridor. Graterford's superintendent testified that even if the preliminary injunction is lifted, he would not close PPLC's office/library. If the cell block offices are closed, then the only remaining places inmates could hold confidential legal discussions with a Clinic member would be in the library, general library, or PPLC's main office. Inmates necessarily use the main corridor to reach any of these places. Thus, closing the block offices, while keeping the main office open, would result in increased inmate movement in the main corridor.
Finally, the prison lacks adequate space to store and safeguard inmate property. Defendants would like to use PPLC's main office as a storage area. Although inadequate storage space is not an insignificant problem, it cannot justify restriction of the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts. For these reasons, security and space concerns do not justify the closing of any of PPLC's offices.
The final issue to be addressed is whether closing any of PPLC's offices will violate inmates' fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts. Defendants have represented that, even if the injunction is lifted, they have no plans to shut down the cell block E office or the office/library. However, defendants would eliminate the offices on cell blocks A, B, C and D and the main office. Evidence at the initial hearing established that closing the block offices would overburden the main office. There is no evidence that PPLC could provide adequate services without the use of its main office or that "reasonable alternatives for obtaining assistance" would be available. Bryan, 516 F.2d at 237.
Defendants have not questioned whether plaintiffs have suffered an actual injury, or an "instance in which an inmate was actually denied access to the courts." Hudson v. Robinson, 678 F.2d 462, 466 (3d Cir. 1982) (quoting Kershner v. Mazurkiewicz, 670 F.2d 440, 444 (3d Cir. 1982)). After the Wade hearing, I found that closing the Clinic "has caused the plaintiffs and those who benefit from the services of Clinic members to suffer irreparable harm." Wade, 448 F. Supp. at 683. There has been no showing that inmates have been denied access to the courts since entry of the preliminary injunction. Assuming that the preliminary injunction served its purpose -- to prevent irreparable injury to plaintiffs pendente lite -- such a showing is impossible.
I refuse to lift the injunction and wait for another inmate to be denied access to the courts. To wait for an inmate with a valid habeas corpus or civil rights claim to be denied access to the courts is intolerable; based on my findings in Wade and above, such an injury is inevitable.
For the foregoing reasons, to allow defendants to close PPLC would violate the prison's "affirmative obligation to assure all prisoners meaningful access to the courts." Bounds, 430 U.S. at 824 (emphasis added).
Conclusions of Law
1. This court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and parties in this case.
2. Because the Clinic gives legal advice and provides legal representation to functionally illiterate inmates, and inmates in administrative and disciplinary custody, it has standing to assert the constitutional right of access to the courts of these inmates.
3. Closing the Clinic would violate the constitutional rights of certain Clinic clients, including functionally illiterate clients and those housed in administrative or disciplinary custody, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
4. Defendants have failed to provide any justification sufficient to warrant the violations of constitutional rights that would result from closing PPLC.
5. Plaintiffs are entitled to permanent injunctive relief.
AND NOW, this 25th day of March, 1987 it is ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants. Defendants are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from closing any PPLC office or facility.