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INMATES OF THE ALLEGHENY CTY. JAIL v. WECHT

November 17, 1988

INMATES OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL, THOMAS PRICE BEY, ARTHUR GOSLEE, ROBERT MALONEY, and CALVIN MILLIGAN on their own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
CYRIL H. WECHT, President of the Allegheny County Board of Prison Inspectors and the other members of the Board: THOMAS FOERSTER and WILLIAM H. 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. CALIGUIRI, 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, Defendants; v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Third-Party Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL, JR.

 FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

 Following a hearing on October 13 and 14, 1988, and a tour of the Allegheny County Jail ("Jail") and Jail Annex ("Annex") on October 13, 1988, we now make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 I.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 With respect to the motions presently before the Court, we are generally considering only the old main facility, or Jail. The Annex, which was opened in 1986, and which can house up to 435 inmates, is at capacity but not unconstitutionally overcrowded. The Annex appears to be operating smoothly with the exception of difficulties related to female inmates suffering mental health problems. (See infra slip op. p. 10).

 The Jail is a 102-year-old structure, used for every conceivable function related to the County's criminal justice system. It is a pretrial detention center housing unconvicted persons awaiting trial; unfortunately it must also serve as a detention unit for convicted state and federal prisoners awaiting sentencing, assignment or transfer to other institutions; it is also a prison for convicted state prisoners serving sentences of up to 23 months and for County prisoners convicted of misdemeanors who are serving short sentences. A number of inmates are in a work-release program. These are primarily fathers who have disobeyed child-support orders. They are housed in the Jail at night but are permitted to work at their own jobs during the day. The facility additionally houses prisoners brought to the Jail from other institutions to testify in federal or state trials. Only male inmates are housed in the Jail. All females are in the Annex.

 The County attempted, through a law suit, to force the Commonwealth to house all convicted state prisoners in state facilities, but the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the Commonwealth need not take prisoners whose sentences were less than twenty-three months. See County of Allegheny v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 518 Pa. 556, 544 A.2d 1305 (Pa. 1988).

 Although the Jail is orderly and clean, it is no longer constitutionally adequate. While superficially in good physical condition, considering its age, the structure falls far short of meeting contemporary standards. Conditions are a vast improvement over what they were when this case began in 1976. (See this Court's description of those conditions in Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. 1368 (1978)). However, there have been no structural changes made to the Jail to create additional bed space or to facilitate other activities at the Jail.

 The housing structure of the Jail consists of the North, East, and West Blocks, two Mental Health sections, a Receiving Unit, and a Disciplinary Housing Unit. A total of 610 cells in the Jail are currently available for inmate housing.

 The North Block consists of 47 cells which are 8' deep x 5' wide x 8' 10" high (40 sq. ft.).

 The East Block consists of 250 cells which are 7' 8 1/2" deep x 6' wide x 8' 1 1/2" high (46.25 sq. ft.). Ten of these cells are used as mop rooms, one a supply room and one a nurse's station; thus, 238 cells remain for inmate housing.

 The West Block consists of 210 cells which are 7' 8 1/2" deep x 6' wide x 9' 3/4" high (46.25 sq. ft.). Like the East Block, ten of these cells are mop rooms, one a supply room and one a nurse's station; thus, 198 cells remain for inmate housing.

 The two Mental Health units each have 20 cells which are 8' 10 1/2" deep x 7' 1 1/2" high (63.2 sq. ft.).

 Three ranges of cells comprise the Disciplinary Housing Unit. The "A" range has 8 cells which are 10' 10" deep x 6' wide x 8' 1" high (65 sq. ft.). The "B" range has 7 cells which are 9' 11" deep x 6' 6" wide x 8' 1" high (64.4 sq. ft.). The "E" range consists of 9 cells which are 7' 9" deep x 6' 6" wide x 8' 1" high (50 sq. ft.). Inmates are double-celled in 6 "B" range cells and in 5 "E" range cells. Thus, there are 30 bed spaces in that unit.

 Every cell contains a sink with push button cold water, a seatless toilet, and mattress suspended from chains.

 The gymnasium measures 45' 10" x 63'. This is the only large open area in the main facility. Although a court yard is available to the inmates, no real outdoor exercise facility exists. The Jail also contains a hospital room measuring 19' x 31' 6".

 On any given day, approximately 20 cells are "down" - inoperable and unavailable for inmate housing. An additional 20 cells in the East and West Blocks have been converted into storage facilities or "mop rooms" for cleaning and maintenance equipment. The County seeks to convert these back to cells by removing the mop sinks and installing cots, wash basins and toilet facilities. This is where 20 of the requested 40 additional inmates would be housed.

 The average daily inmate population in the main facility was 429 in 1976. By 1983 it had increased to 644. When this case was filed in 1976, the litigation focused on conditions at the Jail. Overcrowding was not a problem until 1983.

 Pursuant to this Court's Order of February 28, 1985, we held that the maximum constitutional inmate population was 540 inmates. The number of inmates housed in the main facility is not to exceed that number after 5:00 p.m. on any day. The County has violated that Order. The population limitation up to the date of the hearing had been exceeded as follows (inmates remaining at 5:00 p.m. in main facility after release of inmates per this Court's Orders of February 28, 1985 and of February 9, 1988): 8/27/88 - 567 inmates (27 over limit) 8/28/88 - 574 inmates (34 over limit) 8/29/88 - 545 inmates (5 over limit) 10/8/88 - 559 inmates (19 over limit) 10/9/88 - 567 inmates (27 over limit) 10/10/88 - 569 inmates (29 over limit)

 These figures do not include persons received for incarceration after 5:00 p.m. on the noted days. Such commitments substantially increase the inmate population on a regular basis.

 Recently the Population Control Manager resigned. This vacancy exacerbates the logistical problems of coordinating the inmate population. This position had been created by the County following the institution of this action. The person filling it was, according to the Warden, of great assistance in expediting releases, obtaining alternate housing and holding the prisoner population within the cap set by the Court.

 Rarely does the main facility house fewer than 540 inmates at a time. If the number drops below 540, the occurrence is only temporary.

 The population at the Jail is constantly in a state of flux. We had previously arbitrarily determined that, for purposes of the Court order, the population count should occur at 5:00 p.m. At this time work-release prisoners should have reported back, permitting jail personnel to determine the population. Problems arise, of course, when, although the population is 540 at 5:00 p.m., police later bring in more prisoners or pretrial detainees.

 The County has attempted to meet the problem but with only partial success. In 1986 the County opened the newly constructed Annex, a block from the Jail, to house 435 prisoners. The County also obtained a facility for approximately 25 non-violent offenders. This is a former post office in Homestead, Pennsylvania, which is not yet open. The County is investigating a facility in New Brighton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for housing non-violent offenders and considering converting the 13th floor storage area at the Annex into additional housing for 16 inmates. Currently in very early planning stages, these latter two possibilities are at best tentative and, if completed, will not put much of a dent in the problem. The County has also commenced an electronically monitored House Arrest Program. As of October 14, 1988, 31 prisoners were being confined to their homes under the program.

 These stop-gap measures are not sufficient to handle the present requirements of the County, let alone future needs stemming from the large projected increases in inmate population. Other conditions at the Jail indicate its inadequacy to serve as a constitutionally adequate institution for prisoners.

 The old, unreliable, unsafe heating plant is totally inadequate. The system breaks down regularly each winter. The master locking systems, which allow prison personnel to lock or unlock a complete row of cells at one time, do not work properly. This deficiency creates an obvious danger in the event of fire.

 The ductwork lacks smoke or fire detectors that would effect an automatic shutdown should a fire occur. Smoke, delivering toxic products through the return air ductwork, would cause a hazardous condition throughout most areas of the Jail. The Jail lacks a sprinkler system. On our latest inspection no emergency evacuation plan was posted. We note that ...


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