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UNITED STATES EX REL. PARA-PROFESSIONAL LAW CLINIC

March 25, 1987

United States Of America, ex rel. Para-Professional Law Clinic, et al.
v.
Robert P. Kane, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD

 Background

 On or about January 27, 1976, inmates at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford ("Graterford") formed the Para-Professional Law Clinic ("PPLC" or "Clinic") to provide legal assistance to Graterford inmates. In December 1977 the prison announced plans to close PPLC. Certain inmates moved for a preliminary injunction. After a two day hearing I found that closing PPLC violated inmates' rights to obtain legal assistance from other inmates and, in the absence of an adequate law library, inmates' rights of access to the courts. I ordered that the Clinic be reopened. Wade v. Kane, 448 F. Supp. 678 (E.D. Pa. 1978). The Third Circuit affirmed. Wade v. Kane, 591 F.2d 1338 (3d Cir. 1979).

 After I issued the preliminary injunction in Wade, another group of inmates filed a complaint, Para-Professional Law Clinic v. Kane, C.A. No. 78-538, raising the same issues addressed in Wade. These two actions were consolidated.

 After settlement negotiations proved unsuccessful, a final hearing was held. None of the Wade plaintiffs remained incarcerated at Graterford, and that action was dismissed with prejudice. I therefore have before me only C.A. No. 78-538. However, since this case and the Wade case were consolidated and would unquestionably have been tried together as one case, I considered the evidence presented in both cases rather than engage in the duplicative and unnecessary process of re-presenting all the evidence taken in Wade. After careful review of the evidence presented at the original and final hearings, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 Findings of Fact

 1. Graterford provides inmates an institution-run law library ("library"). At the time of the final hearing, the library contained up-to-date collections of United States Supreme Court Reports, Federal Reporter, Federal Supplement, Pennsylvania Reporter (Atlantic Reporter, Second Series), selected federal and state statutes and Shepard's Federal Citations. The library also contained numerous research and reference aids. *fn1"

 2. The library is open Monday thru Friday from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 11:20 a.m., 1:00 p.m. to approximately 3:20 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

 3. The library occupies approximately 700 square feet and can accommodate approximately twenty inmates. If more than twenty inmates wish to use the law library at any one time, they may work in the adjacent general library. The general library is open Monday thru Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 11:20 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. to approximately 3:20 p.m.

 4. The library employs six or seven inmates as legal reference aides ("aides").

 5. All aides are scheduled to work at all times the library is open. However, on average only two or three aides are present at any particular time. At various times the library has employed a Spanish-speaking aide.

 6. Aides (but not Clinic members) are not permitted to give inmates legal assistance or advice during working hours, since this might diminish the number of inmates able to enlist the primary purpose of the aides, to locate citations and law books. Aides are permitted to assist inmates only by locating library materials and showing inmates how to use such materials.

 7. Library aides are not required to have training in legal research; the only job qualification is an interest in working in the library. One aide has completed a state-sponsored workshop on legal research. There is no evidence that any other aides have received training in legal research.

 8. Generally, there are no problems resulting from noise or overcrowding in the library. There is no evidence as to whether the library would be overburdened if PPLC is closed.

 9. The library is located away from inmate cells. Generally, inmates must apply to their cell block officer for a pass to obtain access to the library.

 10. Inmates housed in the Classification Center must obtain a pass from the librarian to obtain access to the library.

 11. There is no evidence of a system whereby inmates who wish to confer concerning legal problems can gain access to the library at the same time. There is no regulation prohibiting inmates who wish to confer concerning legal problems from attempting to obtain library passes for the same time. There is evidence that passes are not always honored. As a practical matter, it is difficult for inmates to arrange to meet in the library to confer about legal problems.

 12. Inmates placed in administrative or disciplinary custody are housed in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") or in E Gallery. There are approximately forty inmates housed in RHU and approximately 120 inmates housed in E Gallery. These inmates are not authorized to leave their housing units and are unable to obtain passes for the library.

 13. Inmates on RHU or E Gallery may submit a request slip for a case or book, or legal topic they wish to have researched. Aides perform requested research. One or two days after receiving a request slip, the library will provide three or four books or cases.

 14. The library provides a pencil and few sheets of paper upon request.

 15. The library contains no Spanish-language legal reference materials.

 16. Graterford inmates take placement tests in reading, spelling and arithmetic. A study completed several years ago found that Graterford inmates scored at the 7.3 grade level on these tests. A more recent study found that the average reading level was at the 6.4 grade level.

 18. A handbook produced by the inmate-run Prison Literacy Project states that the Graterford education department estimates that 1400 of 2400 Graterford inmates are functionally illiterate.

 19. A Clinic member estimated that, in 1978, 30 to 50% of Graterford inmates were functionally illiterate.

 20. Approximately one-third of the 168 Hispanic inmates at Graterford can understand, read and write English. Spanish-speaking inmates who cannot read or write English need assistance to utilize library materials.

 21. Graterford offers a variety of educational programs, including an adult basic education program leading to a high school equivalency diploma, a computer literacy course, and a tutoring program in English as a second language.

 22. Prison counselors are available to help illiterate inmates contact attorneys and courts. A Spanish-speaking counselor is available to assist Hispanic inmates. Counselors are not qualified to give legal advice to inmates.

 23. PPLC is a non-profit corporation formed under Pennsylvania law for the purpose of providing legal ...


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