The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCGLYNN
This is a class action in which individuals under sentence of death and currently confined to "death rows" at Pennsylvania's Correctional Institutions at Graterford and Huntingdon challenge the conditions of their confinement under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The inmates also challenge restrictions on their first amendment right to the free exercise of religion and their sixth amendment right to access to courts. Original jurisdiction is vested in this court by 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343 (West Supp. 1986).
There were eleven days of hearings including two days of testimony at Graterford, at which death row inmates from both Graterford and Huntingdon testified. In addition, the court visited the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at Graterford on two occasions, first in June, 1986, and then again in December, 1986. The court also heard extensive testimony about the conditions of confinement in the RHU at Huntingdon. This Memorandum of Decision represents my findings of fact and conclusions of law.
For the reasons that follow, I find that the conditions of confinement for capital inmates at Graterford and Huntingdon are not constitutionally infirm. Similarly, I find that the plaintiffs have failed to establish a violation of their first or sixth amendment rights.
By order dated June 2, 1986, the court certified the plaintiff class to represent all inmates under sentence of death and confined to administrative segregation at the State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh during the pendency of this litigation.
II. Role Of The Courts In Eighth Amendment Challenges
The eighth amendment prohibits prison conditions that inflict cruel and unusual punishment. It is well established, however, that incarceration necessarily entails the withdrawal or limitation of rights and privileges. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 524, 82 L. Ed. 2d 393, 104 S. Ct. 3194 (1984). Indeed, sentenced inmates may even be subject to punitive conditions. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 n. 16 (1979). The eighth amendment applies to this case because confinement in a state penitentiary is subject to eighth amendment scrutiny. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 106 S. Ct. 1078, 1083-84, 89 L. Ed. 2d 251 (1986).
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981), represents the first Supreme Court decision to set the boundaries of an eighth amendment challenge to the conditions of confinement. Drawing on a long line of eighth amendment decisions, the Court in Rhodes held that the eighth amendment proscribes conditions that result in an "unnecessary and wanton" infliction of pain, including practices that are "totally without penological justification." Id. at 346 (citing Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173, 183, 49 L. Ed. 2d 859, 96 S. Ct. 2909 (1976)).
The Rhodes Court construed the eighth amendment to permit punitive conditions that are compatible with "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," but that are not "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime." Id. at 346 (citations omitted). The Court also held that the eighth amendment does not mandate comfortable prisons. Id. at 349. Rather, the Court concluded that "restrictive" and even "harsh" conditions are a penalty criminal offenders must pay for their offenses against society. Id. at 347.
In deciding eighth amendment cases, a federal court is not authorized to interfere with the policy choices of state officials concerning the operation of prisons. In Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983), the Supreme Court explained its policy of deference:
As we said in Rhodes v. Chapman, "a prison's internal security is peculiarly a matter normally left to the discretion of prison administrators." In assessing the seriousness of a threat to institutional security, prison administrators necessarily draw on more than the specific facts surrounding a particular incident; instead, they must consider the character of the inmates confined in the institution, recent and longstanding relations between prisoners and guards, prisoners inter se, and the like. In the volatile atmosphere of a prison, an inmate easily may constitute an unacceptable threat to the safety of other prisoners and guards even if he himself has committed no misconduct; rumor, reputation, and even more imponderable factors may suffice to spark potentially disastrous incidents. The judgment of the prison officials in this context, like that of those making parole decisions, turns largely on "purely subjective evaluations and on predictions of future behavior," indeed, the administrators must predict not just one inmate's future actions, as in parole, but those of an entire institution.
Id. at 474 (citations omitted). At the same time, this policy of broad deference does not divest a court of its authority to remedy genuine constitutional violations. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. at 347. Nevertheless, it does require that, absent a constitutional violation, a court grant wide ranging deference to the expertise of prison officials in deciding how to best administer their prisons. See Whitley, 106 S. Ct. at 1085 (1986); Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 322, 73 L. Ed. 2d 28, 102 S. Ct. 2452 & n. 29 (1982). See also Harris v. Pernsley, 755 F.2d 338, 349 (3d Cir.) (Garth, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 965, 106 S. Ct. 331, 88 L. Ed. 2d 314 (1985).
In discharging its constitutional duty, a court faced with an eighth amendment challenge to the conditions of confinement must consider the challenged conditions "alone or in combination," recognizing that the totality of the conditions "may deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347. Concurring in Rhodes, Justice Brennan wrote that " e ven if no single condition of confinement would be unconstitutional in itself, 'exposure to the cumulative effect of prison conditions may subject inmates to cruel and unusual punishment.'" Id. at 363 (quoting Laaman v. Helgemoe, 437 F. Supp. 269, 322-23 (D.N.H. 1977)) (Brennan, Blackmun & Stevens, JJ., concurring).
What emerges from these pronouncements is not a static test; the necessary determinations are imprecise and indefinite. Id. at 346, 361. Rather, the eighth amendment must be interpreted in a flexible and dynamic manner. Id. at 345. Also, a court must look to objective factors as much as possible. Id. at 346. Appropriate objective factors include basic human needs such as food, shelter, and medical care, as well as sanitation, safety, the physical plant, educational/rehabilitational programs, the length of confinement, and out-of-cell time. The opinions of experts, while helpful, "simply do not establish the constitutional minima." Id. at 348 n. 13 (citation omitted). In the end, the court must "rely upon its own expertise and on its own knowledge of contemporary standards." Id. at 364 (Brennan, Blackmun & Stevens, JJ., concurring) (citation omitted).
I address each of the myriad aspects of confinement in light of the foregoing principles. Since Rhodes v. Chapman instructs me to consider each aspect alone or in combination, I will address the issues serially to determine whether, taken alone, they establish a constitutional violation. After reviewing each separately, I will determine whether the cumulative impact of the challenged conditions rises to the level of an eighth amendment violation.
III. Pennsylvania's Correctional System
The Pennsylvania correctional system consists of ten institutions of varying degrees of security. Tr. 7/29/86: 6-7.
Additionally, the Commonwealth utilizes fifteen community service centers. Id. The prison population totals approximately 15,000 inmates, and the Commonwealth employs in excess of 4,000 people to operate its correctional facilities. Id. For the fiscal year 1986, the Commonwealth allocated $ 200 million dollars for prison operations. Id. Since the reinstitution of the death penalty in 1978, three institutions have housed capital inmates: Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh. At present, all of Pennsylvania's capital inmates are housed either at Graterford or Huntingdon.
1. State Correctional Institution at Graterford
Graterford is a maximum security institution situated on approximately 1700 acres of land, 65 of which are enclosed by a wall that spans approximately one mile. Tr. 7/28/86: 101. The prison itself consists of five cellblocks, each more than 600 feet long. Id. The RHU at Graterford is a fairly modern building, separate from the main building containing the five primary cellblocks. It is a one-level, U-shaped structure. Tr. 6/16/86: 16-17. One wing of the RHU houses only capital inmates, the middle wing houses both disciplinary and capital inmates, while the third wing houses inmates with psychiatric problems. Id. Graterford is not an accredited correctional institution.
Tr. 7/28/86: 100; Tr. 7/29/86: 104-05.
Nearly 2600 inmates are confined at Graterford. Tr. 6/27/86: 65-66; Tr. 7/28/86: 115. Of this population, 17% are serving life sentences. Tr. 7/28/86: 101. The RHU has a maximum capacity of thirty-six inmates, but Graterford houses only about twenty capital inmates. Tr. 6/27/86: 73; Tr. 7/28/86: 116. Generally, the Commonwealth houses capital inmates with significant psychiatric histories at Graterford due to its proximity to Pennsylvania's only maximum security psychiatric hospital, Farview State Hospital. Tr. 6/27/86: 89.
Graterford employs 650 people, of which 400 are correctional officers. Tr. 7/28/86: 101. The RHU requires a disproportionate number of these correctional officers to manage its inmate population. Specifically, the RHU requires between four and eight correctional officers for the day and afternoon shifts, while the night shift requires between two and three officers. Tr. 6/18/86: 35; Tr. 7/28/86: 115-16, 130-31. Correctional officers walk through the RHU every thirty minutes to an hour. Tr. 6/18/86: 35.
2. State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon
Huntingdon is a medium/maximum security institution. Tr. 6/27/86: 4. Its layout patterns a "hub" and "spoke" concept, where the hub is the center of the institution and the spokes, six in all, are the cellblocks. Id. at 4-5. A large wall surrounds the entire facility, and two modular units, which also house inmates, are located outside the wall. Id. at 4. The Commission on Accreditation and Corrections accredited Huntingdon in 1984. Tr. 6/18/86: 140; Tr. 6/27/86: 5-6.
The general prison population at Huntingdon consists of slightly more than 2000 inmates. Tr. 6/26/86: 22, 101; Tr. 6/27/86: 4. Only 1179 cells are available, however, so the institution is presently operating at maximum capacity. Tr. 6/27/86: 4-5.
One cellblock, referred to as "B" block, serves as the RHU. Tr. 6/26/86: 112; Tr. 6/27/86: 5. An RHU annex adjoins the "B" block. Tr. 6/26/86: 114. Cells in the RHU are located in the center of the cellblock. Unlike Graterford, the cells at Huntingdon are stacked on top of one another, three tiers high. Tr. 6/18/86: 37; Tr. 6/26/86: 109.
The RHU at Huntingdon houses between 145 and 150 inmates; another 90 inmates are kept in the RHU annex. Tr. 6/26/86: 141; Tr. 6/27/86: 5. Of this population, forty-two are capital inmates. Tr. 6/26/86: 111; Tr. 6/27/86: 13-14.
Huntingdon employs 450 people, of which 250 are correctional officers. Tr. 6/27/86: 7-8. Like the RHU at Graterford, the RHU at Huntingdon requires a disproportionate number of correctional officers to manage its population. Id. Both the day and afternoon shifts require between eight and twelve correctional officers, although the night shift requires only two correctional officers. Tr. 6/27/86: 8.
3. State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh
The oldest prison in Pennsylvania, the Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh is a maximum security prison built in 1882. Tr. 7/29/86: 117-118. It is situated on twelve acres of property in downtown Pittsburgh, and houses approximately 1,600 inmates. Id. The prison employs 450 staff, of which 235 are correctional officers. Id.
Defendant Glen Jeffes, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, testified that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is currently undertaking a $ 300 million dollar prison construction and renovation program. Tr. 7/29/86: 11-12. Once complete, the project will create more than 3,000 new beds, which will be divided among two state hospitals that are being converted to state correctional facilities, two new penitentiaries, and a new diagnostic/medical unit that is under construction at Graterford. Id.
1. I mpact of New Construction on Graterford
As a part of the planned construction, the Commonwealth intends to build the aforementioned medical unit and a new RHU at Graterford. Tr. 7/29/86: 12. The new RHU will consist of 104 beds, 28 outside recreation areas, and 5 day rooms. Id. Once construction is complete, the Commonwealth plans to phase out the present RHU, unless overcrowding dictates otherwise. Id. at 12, 36-37. State officials project a completion date of mid-1988. Id. at 13.
2. Impact of New Construction on Huntingdon
The Commonwealth is not planning any construction that will affect the RHU at Huntingdon. Id. at 37-38. The Commonwealth is, however, allocating one million dollars to renovate the existing medical facility at Huntingdon. Id. at 13. The Commonwealth intends to continue housing capital inmates at Huntingdon, despite the construction of new RHU's at Graterford and Pittsburgh. Id. at 37.
3. Impact of New Construction on Pittsburgh
The Commonwealth is close to completing construction of the new RHU at Pittsburgh. Tr. 7/28/86: 102; Tr. 7/29/86: 13. At trial, Commissioner Jeffes estimated completion by late 1986. Tr. 7/29/86: 13, 16. Twenty-four cells in the new RHU will be designated for capital inmates Id. Further, the new RHU will have one day room for every eight cells. Some of the capital inmates presently confined at Huntingdon will be transferred to Pittsburgh upon completion of the RHU. Tr. 6/27/86: 31.
C. Segregation of Capital Cases
Pennsylvania reinstated capital punishment in September, 1978. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9711 (Purdon 1982). The Commonwealth did not decide to segregate capital inmates from the general prison population, however, until November, 1982. At that time, then Commissioner of Corrections Roland Marks ordered that all capital inmates be transferred from the general prison population to administrative segregation in the RHU's of Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh. Ex. D-43; Tr. 6/27/86: 9. Commissioner Marks premised this policy on the inability of prison officials to adequately supervise capital inmates in the general prison population and on the attendant security problems. Ex. D-43.
There is an abundance of evidence in the record supporting the decision to segregate capital inmates. See Tr. 6/27/86: 9-11; Tr. 7/28/86: 102-04; Tr. 7/29/86: 8-9, 28, 126; Ex. D-1 & D-44. Moreover, the plaintiffs do not challenge the decision to segregate capital inmates. Tr. 11/7/86: 3. The decision to segregate is only relevant to this action in that it serves as a benchmark to determine how long some capital inmates have resided on death row, which exceeds four years in some cases. Because of the dilatory effect of the legal and political predicates to the implementation of the death penalty, I expect the average length of confinement and capital inmate population to continue to grow substantially in the years to come.
IV. Challenges To The Physical Plant At Graterford And Huntingdon
A primary part of the plaintiffs' challenge to the conditions of confinement concentrates on limitations in the physical plants of Graterford and Huntingdon.
A. Square Footage of the Cells
Plaintiffs argue that the square footage of the cells, combined with the amount of time spent in the cells, jeopardizes their physical and mental health. Further, plaintiffs maintain that the usable square footage, that is the space available taking into account in-cell trappings such as a bed and sink/toilet fixture, falls far below acceptable standards. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, contends that the cells provide sufficient space and thus do not pose a health hazard.
The cells in the RHU at Graterford and Huntingdon measure sixty and seventy-one square feet per cell respectively. Tr. 6/17/86: 12; Tr. 6/18/86: 119, 131. The cells planned for the new RHU at Graterford measure sixty square feet as well. Tr. 7/29/86: 16. Taking into account the bed and sink/toilet fixture, the cells at Graterford and Huntingdon provide thirty-eight and forty-six "usable" square feet respectively. Tr. 6/17/86: 12; Tr. 6/18/96: 121, 131.
The plaintiffs adduced testimony from their expert in environmental health, Curtis A. Golden, that cell size affects the likelihood of contracting respiratory diseases. Tr. 6/18/86: 120. Based on a Department of Defense study of servicemen residing in troop barracks, Golden testified that when the available space per person is "significantly" less than sixty square feet per person, an increased incidence of respiratory infection results. Id. at 120-21.
The Commonwealth's expert in environmental health, Harry Steigman, disputed Golden's reliance on the Defense Department study. Tr. 7/30/86: 22-23. Steigman argued that the conditions in that study are considerably different than those found at Graterford and Huntingdon. Id. He noted that the inmates in the study share a large, common space, whereas the inmates on death row each occupy their own cell. Id.
On the issue of cell size, the applicable American Correctional Association (ACA) standard recommends eighty square feet per cell. Tr. 6/18/86: 119. The standard is not mandatory, however. Id. at 147. Moreover, numerous courts have held that recommendations by experts regarding desirable or ideal space allotments do not constitute constitutional minima. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348-50 & n.13; Union County Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d 984, 999 & n.24 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1102, (1984); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1248-49 (9th Cir. 1982) (followed in DiBuono). In Rhodes, which held that the practice of double celling long term inmates did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, the Court described an expert's recommendation calling for fifty to fifty-five square feet per inmate as merely aspirational. 452 U.S. at 348-49. The Court concluded that, considered alone, the fact that the conditions provide less space than the aspirational goal falls "far short" of proving cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 348.
Plaintiffs challenge to the size of the cells fails for several reasons. First, the cells at Graterford, which are smaller than those at Huntingdon, measure sixty square feet. In Rhodes, the Court dismissed an eighth amendment challenge even though the cells provided only thirty-five square feet per inmate. 452 U.S. at 340. Second, plaintiffs argument fails because there is no proof that the existing cells have injured the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs hypothesize an injury by relying on the Department of Defense study, yet the relevance of the study to the conditions of confinement on Pennsylvania's death row is tenuous at best. The conditions in that study were substantially different, and even plaintiffs' expert testified that the study only applied to situations where "you have space significantly less than 60 square feet per person," which is not the case here. Tr. 6/18/86: 120-121 (emphasis mine). Nor did plaintiffs introduce any evidence of the proliferation of respiratory disease, despite the fact that capital inmates have resided under these conditions for in excess of four years. Finally, my inspection of the RHU at Graterford convinced me that the capital inmates have ample space to move about. The space available to each inmate is more than adequate. Accordingly, while square footage is a factor to be taken into consideration in assessing the totality of the conditions of confinement, I find that confinement in cells the size of those at Graterford and Huntingdon does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Plaintiffs complain that inadequacies in the heating and ventilation systems at Graterford and Huntingdon create steambath-like conditions, thus causing discomfort and threatening their health. The Commonwealth counters that the temperature at both institutions is seasonally adequate. The Commonwealth further contends that, to the extent there are ventilation deficiencies, they at worst create uncomfortable conditions that are not actionable under the eighth amendment.
There can be no dispute that the inmates have a right to be free from extreme hot and cold temperatures. Adequate ventilation is a fundamental attribute of shelter, but a distinction must be made between ventilation that is necessary to support life or prevent disease, and ventilation sought to improve comfort levels. In this regard, the Supreme Court in Rhodes made clear that "the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons. . . ." 452 U.S. at 349. The Court stressed that prisons housing "persons convicted of serious crimes cannot be free of discomfort." Id.
In this case, RHU inmates from both Graterford and Huntingdon testified about the temperatures in the RHU. Neil Ferber, an inmate formerly confined at Graterford, testified that the RHU has absolutely no ventilation. Tr. 6/16/86: 20, 61. He stated that the RHU is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Id. Two inmates, Henry Lee and Michael J. Travaglia, testified about temperatures in the RHU at Huntingdon. In the summer, the two testified that conditions are "humid and damp" and "very warm." Tr. 6/24/86: 14, 58. With regard to winter conditions, Lee and Travaglia described the conditions as "pretty hot" and "very hot." Tr. 6/24/86: 14, 58.
Lieutenant Kenneth Dean Kyler, supervisor of correctional officers at Huntingdon and former supervisor of Huntingdon's RHU, testified that the RHU often becomes warm in the summer, but that correctional officers open the windows upon request to alleviate the heat. Tr. 6/26/86: 114-15.
Lieutenant Kyler noted that inmates in the top tier of the RHU have been offered cells on a lower tier to escape the heat, but have declined the offer. Id. at 115. Kyler added that Huntingdon's RHU does not have fans or air conditioning. Id. In the winter months, Kyler testified that the temperature averages between 78 and 80 degrees. Tr. 6/26/86: 114.
In addition to temperature, plaintiffs introduced testimony challenging the adequacy of the airflow. The ACA standard on airflow recommends that ten cubic feet of air per inmate circulate into the cell. Tr. 6/18/86: 100. The standard is not mandatory. Tr. 7/30/86: 14-15. Plaintiffs' environmental expert, Curtis Golden, testified that the twofold purpose of this standard is to avoid individuals with respiratory infections from reinfecting themselves and to avoid the transmission of respiratory pathogens to other inmates. Tr. 6/18/86: 100. Golden opined that, absent sufficient airflow, a high probability of respiratory disease exists. Id. at 100-01.
In rebuttal, the Commonwealth offered the testimony of its environmental expert, Harry Steigman, who accompanied Golden on his inspections of Graterford and Huntingdon. For the last three years, Steigman has served as an environmental health consultant to the Commonwealth, and in this capacity, has conducted numerous health inspections at Graterford and Huntingdon. Tr. 7/30/86: 7-8. Consequently, he is very familiar with the physical health of the capital inmates.
Steigman did not refute Golden's airflow findings. However, he did not agree with Golden's conclusions about the probable consequences of his findings. In his role as consultant to the Commonwealth, Steigman has not observed any incidence of the development or spreading of infectious respiratory diseases in the RHU, other than common colds. Id. at 10-11. Also, he noted that officials at Huntingdon have taken steps to improve the air circulation in the RHU since Golden's visit. Id. at 26-27.
The plaintiffs' contentions regarding the airflow and temperature, while legitimate considerations, fall short of stating an eighth amendment violation. I have no doubt that some of the inmates are uncomfortable as a result of the temperature. In Rhodes, however, the Court unequivocally stated that the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons. The Court went further, stating that "to the extent . . . conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society." Id. at 347. Relying on Rhodes, a recent decision in this district rejected an eighth amendment challenge to the lack of central air conditioning and ventilation fans at Graterford. See Jones v. Zimmerman, No. 86-4135 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 1, 1986). Numerous other decisions have likewise rejected challenges to a prison's climate absent a showing of extreme temperature variations. See, e.g., Shelby County Jail Inmates v. Westlake, 798 F.2d 1085, 1087-88 (7th Cir. 1986); Loe v. Wilkinson, 604 F. Supp. 130, 132-33 (M.D. Pa. 1984).
The only evidence remotely supportive of unacceptable actionable temperatures is the testimony of the inmates that the RHU is "very hot," but these statements, taken alone, are not sufficient to support a finding of cruel and unusual punishment.
Similarly, I am not persuaded by the plaintiffs' claim regarding the potential health hazards posed by the airflow. Plaintiffs' expert did indeed demonstrate a lack of a significant airflow at Huntingdon, and a similar situation to a lesser extent at Graterford. I am persuaded, however, by the opinion of the state's expert that the airflow situation at both institutions does not pose a genuine health risk. Steigman based his opinion on his familiarity with both institutions, which predates the segregation of capital inmates, whereas plaintiffs' expert visited each institution only once. Also, the Commonwealth's expert relied on the medical records of the RHU inmates, which disclosed no evidence of the health risks urged upon the court by the plaintiffs. Indeed, plaintiffs' expert did not point to any manifestations of the proffered health risks. It is my opinion that the plaintiffs have exaggerated the potential health risks of minimal airflows at the two institutions. For these reasons, I find that the plaintiffs have failed to state an eighth amendment violation on this issue.
Plaintiffs claim that the lighting in the RHU is inadequate, and thus causes eye strain and eye damage. The defendants maintain ...