The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL
MAURICE B. COHILL, JR., CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
[SEE TABLE OF CONTENTS IN ORIGINAL]
This Section 1983
class action challenges the constitutionality of the conditions of confinement at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh ("SCIP") located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (often referred to locally as "Western Penitentiary"). Plaintiffs are inmates at SCIP. Defendants, officials employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in various capacities, are generally responsible for operating SCIP.
We began this inquiry on May 3, 1989, with an unannounced and comprehensive four-hour tour of the SCIP facility, accompanied by SCIP officials, the parties' attorneys and two of the named inmate plaintiffs. We then conducted a bench trial from May 4 to June 8, 1989, during which 42 witnesses testified and over 600 documents were admitted into evidence. All parties were zealously represented by well-qualified counsel who performed admirably throughout.
Based on the evidence, and our own firsthand observations, we find that nearly every aspect of SCIP which we consider here is inadequate, falling far below constitutional standards. In fact, crediting the opinions of the expert witnesses who testified, particularly those of the fire protection engineer, medical doctor and penologist retained by plaintiffs, we might very well order that SCIP be closed immediately; it is an overcrowded, unsanitary, and understaffed fire trap. We are painfully aware, however, and take judicial notice, that there is nowhere else in the Commonwealth to house these inmates.
The appellate court cases in this area continuously warn the district courts to avoid judicial incursions into the day-to-day administration of penal institutions. See e.g., Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979).
We believe that in the lengthy findings and Opinion which follow here we will elude this pitfall by placing the burden on the parties to create their own solutions to the unconstitutional conditions at SCIP.
We likewise are aware that the enormity of the problems will not permit easy, quick or inexpensive solutions. Therefore, it is our intention to attempt here to erect constitutional guideposts for the parties. Defendants will then be given until December 1, 1989 to devise a plan for bringing SCIP into constitutional compliance in cooperation with both counsel for plaintiffs and a prison monitor to be appointed by the Court.
We will first attempt to describe the SCIP facilities, next recite the legal standards governing our review of the conditions of confinement and finally determine this Court's authority to order remedial measures. The remainder of the Opinion sets forth our findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and attempts to plant the constitutional guideposts for the consideration of the parties.
THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT PITTSBURGH
SCIP, an antiquated correctional facility more than 100 years old, was built on the banks of the Ohio River on approximately 14 acres of land within the City of Pittsburgh. A maximum security prison, it houses serious offenders serving terms from two years to life or sentenced to death. The prison is a complex of numerous large buildings surrounded by a stone wall measuring approximately 30 feet high and 4 to 5 feet thick.
The main facilities housing inmates are the cavernous North and South cell blocks. The North Block was constructed in 1882 and the South Block in 1888.
The Rotunda, a circular building, connects the North and South Blocks. It houses SCIP administration offices, inmate storage rooms, a records storage area, and an employee dining facility.
Additional inmate housing, located in the newer A and B Blocks was constructed in 1986. The entire B Block and part of the A Block contain administrative and housing facilities for the Western Diagnostic and Classification Center ("Clinic"). The Clinic, which houses 494 inmates, is a reception, diagnostic and assignment facility. All inmates sentenced to serve in the Pennsylvania correctional system are first sent to the Clinic for screening, following which they either remain at SCIP or are sent to other Pennsylvania penal institutions.
The A Block also houses capital case (death sentenced) inmates, inmates who have been placed in disciplinary or administrative segregation, and self-lockup inmates. Disciplinary custody inmates are those housed away from the general population for punitive reasons. Those segregated due to the administration's fear that they may harm themselves or others are said to be in "administrative segregation." Self-lockup inmates are those who have voluntarily chosen to live in segregated housing for their own reasons.
Other buildings on SCIP grounds house the inmate dining facility, prison industry and workshop facilities, the infirmary, the law library, the auditorium, the gymnasium and the powerhouse.
STATE PRISONS AND THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
A. The Role of the Courts
United States citizens sentenced to confinement as punishment for criminal activity do not lose the protections afforded them by the United States Constitution. The eighth amendment to the Constitution prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual" punishments upon citizens.
This prohibition applies not only to the federal government but also to the states in their operation of state penitentiaries. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 318-19, 89 L. Ed. 2d 251, 106 S. Ct. 1078 (1986).
Certainly, states are not obliged to house their prisoners in a country club-like environment with all of the luxuries of twentieth century life; 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). "To the extent that [prison] conditions are restrictive and even harsh they are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981). Thus, sentenced inmates may be required to live under punitive conditions so long as those conditions are not cruel and unusual. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 n. 16, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979).
A court faced with the responsibility of drawing the line between constitutional and unconstitutional conditions undertakes a delicate task. No static test determines whether conditions of confinement are "cruel and unusual." These terms must "draw [their] meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346. This analysis should not be subjective. Rather, the court's judgment must be "informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent." Id.
The role of the courts, then, is to enforce constitutional standards and to protect the constitutional rights of prisoners. Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1126 (5th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1042, 75 L. Ed. 2d 795, 103 S. Ct. 1438 (1983). But this role does not include "second-guessing prison administrators or supervising prison administration," Id. at 1126, or becoming "enmeshed in the minutiae of prison operations." Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 562. Prison administration must be left to the discretion of prison administrators.
With these rules or guidelines in mind, we have concluded that the inmate living conditions at SCIP are cruel and unusual by twentieth century standards and are, therefore, unconstitutional. Accordingly, we will order the defendants to present a plan to remedy the situation.
B. The Scope of the Court's Authority
What are the parameters of the court's remedial authority?
The eleventh amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." This amendment denies federal courts authority to entertain a suit brought by private parties against any state without its consent. Ford Motor Co. v. Dept. of Treasury of State of Indiana, 323 U.S. 459, 462, 89 L. Ed. 389, 65 S. Ct. 347 (1945). See also Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 109 S. Ct. 2304, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45 57 U.S.L.W. 4677, 4678 (1989) (a state is not a "person" within the meaning of Section 1983 and may not be sued under that statute).
While suits against the state itself are thus barred, suits against state officials allegedly acting in violation of the Constitution are not. A suit alleging a violation of federal law strips a state officer of his official authority and is therefore not considered to be an action against the state. Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159, 52 L. Ed. 714, 28 S. Ct. 441 (1908).
An unconstitutional act is "void" and therefore does not impart to the officer immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 102, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67, 104 S. Ct. 900 (1984). Since the state could not authorize the action, the officer, considered to be stripped of his official character, is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct. Id. Therefore, when sued for injunctive relief, a state official is a "person" under Section 1983 because suits for prospective relief brought against those acting in their official capacity are not treated as actions against the state. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985).
This somewhat convoluted legal process really means that once a plaintiff shows that a state official's actions have violated the Constitution, the court can indirectly reach the state -- "the scope of the district court's equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies." Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 15, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554, 91 S. Ct. 1267 (1971). Thus, the Court can reach the Commonwealth through the named defendants in this case.
However, the court can order only relief sufficient to correct a violation. In prison cases the remedy must be tailored to correct the underlying cruel and unusual conditions. Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1144-45 (5th Cir. 1982). The remedy should seek to place victims of unconstitutional conduct in the position that they would have occupied in the absence of such conduct. Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267, 280, 53 L. Ed. 2d 745, 97 S. Ct. 2749 (1977).
We recognize that remedies to rectify identified constitutional violations must be crafted with extraordinary sensitivity and restraint. The Constitution establishes a delicate balance between federal and state governments and between courts and legislatures. "Especially in the area of prison administration, judicial restraint is necessary in order to ensure that the business of operating a state correctional system stays in the hands of persons most able to accomplish this difficult task." Union County Jail Inmates v. Scanlon, 537 F. Supp. 993, 1009 (D.N.J. 1982).
The degree of the district court's equitable discretion is proportionate to the remedial cooperation the court has received. "The equitable powers of federal courts are at their broadest only after state officials default in their obligation to remedy constitutional wrongs." Inmates of Occoquan v. Barry, 269 U.S. App. D.C. 210, 844 F.2d 828, 843 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Accordingly, we will refrain, at this time, from imposing far-reaching or highly intrusive remedies so long as defendants do not abdicate the remedial responsibilities we impose.
While a federal court may not award monetary damages when the awards will be paid out of a state treasury, Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 94 S. Ct. 1347, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662 (1974), it may impose declaratory or injunctive relief, Helfrich v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Military Affairs, 660 F.2d 88, 90 (3d Cir. 1981). Although a court's equitable remedies may implicate state funds, that does not bar the court's exercise of its equitable jurisdiction. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 690, 57 L. Ed. 2d 522, 98 S. Ct. 2565 (1978).
Thus, we may impose on the defendant officials any declaratory or injunctive relief that we believe will correct the unconstitutional confinement conditions at SCIP so long as that remedy is narrowly tailored to mend the violation.
SCIP has been severely overcrowded since 1982, the year the institution began double-celling inmates. George Petsock, Superintendent of SCIP, testified that he instituted a policy of double-celling in 1982 because the prison lacked bed space for the increasing inmate population. Although originally conceived as a temporary system of voluntary double-celling, by 1983, the inmate population was growing so rapidly that the institution switched to permanent involuntary double-celling.
For example, when SCIP began compulsory double-celling in January 1983, approximately 272 inmates were double-celled. By 1988, that number had climbed to 722, and thus far in 1989, the number of double-celled inmates has soared to 1182. The overall inmate population at SCIP continues to expand, having reached a high of 1802 inmates on June 6, 1989. Sadly, SCIP is a classic example of the severe prison overcrowding crisis plaguing not only the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but the entire Country. David Owens, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, testified that during 1989, 250 more prisoners were entering the penal system each month than were being released. The consequences of this sort of onslaught are obvious.
2. Description of Facilities
The North and South Blocks provide beds for 1140 inmates. Each block contains 5 tiers, surrounded by a perimeter floor walk space; the tiers rise 50 or 60 feet in the center of the building. The North Block measures 412 feet in length, it has 5 tiers containing 640 cells with 4 separate ranges on each tier. Each range, divided at the center by walkways running the length and width of the tiers, contains 32 cells.
The South Block contains 500 cells in 5 tiers, each measuring 430 feet in length. These tiers are divided by walkways into 4 ranges of 25 cells each.
The cells on each tier are back-to-back with an alley-way between for pipes and utility conduits. This is referred to either as a "pipe chase" or "chaseway." Both cell blocks contain a guard post at one end and an unenclosed shower facility at the other end. Each block has 2 doors for ingress and egress.
In 1986, the Commonwealth constructed A and B Blocks near the North and South Blocks to serve as a restrictive housing unit and to house death-sentenced or capital inmates. Level 1 of A Block houses administrative and disciplinary custody inmates; Clinic inmates live on level 2; and capital inmates reside on level 3. B Block also has 3 levels; general population inmates reside on levels 1 and 3, and Clinic inmates live on level 2.
The new building contains 480 cells; the first two levels of A and B Blocks have 96 cells per level, and the third level of each block has 48 cells. Ironically, the 48 cells on level 3 of B Block currently are vacant due to a staffing shortage. The Blocks were originally designed for 768 inmates, 480 in single cells and 144 in double cells. However, as of June 6, 1989, approximately 762 inmates resided in Blocks A and B; 666 of them were double-celled. Plaintiffs have not complained about the condition or size of these newer cells.
Of the 640 cells in the ancient North Block, 560 measure 8 x 7 or 56 square feet ("large cells"), and 80 measure 6 x 6 feet or 39 square feet ("small cells"). Four of the cells are used as supply closets. Like Level 3 of B Block, the top 3 tiers of North Block are empty due to inadequate staff. Superintendent Petsock testified that he ordered those tiers to be evacuated in anticipation of new housing construction. However, the construction has not begun. Consequently, of 636 available cells, the inmates occupy only 273.
Although some inmates residing in the North Block are occasionally double-celled in both the large and small cells, most inmates are single-celled. Indeed, as of June 6, 1989, no inmates lived in double cells in the North Block.
All 500 cells in the old South Block measure about 8' x 7' or 56 square feet. Two of these cells are used as supply closets. The majority of the inmates are double-celled. Currently, approximately 741 inmates reside in the South Block, 516 of whom are double-celled. The North and South Blocks combined have a total of 1134 available cells. However, because of inadequate staff, approximately 1014 inmates were cramped into 756 cells as of June 6, 1989.
A thinly barred door provides access into each cell in the North and South Blocks. Small windows are situated above and to the left of the door. A typical single cell is equipped with a small commode, a sink with hot and cold running water, a bed, a desk, a shelf, an unprotected electrical outlet and at least one footlocker.
Because these shared cells are so tiny, only one inmate at a time can stand in the cell; the other must lie on the bed. No cell has room to permit physical exercises. The usable, unobstructed space in the 56 square feet cells amounts to approximately 23 square feet, or 11 1/2 square feet per inmate. In the 39 square foot cells, the unobstructed space equals roughly 15 square feet. Basically, inmates in either the small or large cells can do little more than lie or sit on their bunks or desk.
During our inspection tour I entered one of the small double cells. I was unable to turn around once inside it and had to back out. Although some SCIP officials asserted that inmates spend little time in their cells, thus minimizing the hardship from overcrowded living quarters, testimony from inmates and other officials revealed otherwise. Approximately 1026 inmates hold regular prison jobs. Nevertheless, these inmates, most residing in the North and South Blocks, spend approximately 14 hours per day in their cells.
Moreover, some inmates in the North Block require administrative segregation and, consistent with that status, must spend 21-22 hours per day in their cells. Lieutenant James McFetridge, SCIP Housing Officer, testified that he has previously double-celled administrative segregation inmates in both the large and small cells for as long as 4 consecutive weeks.
SCIP plans to build new housing for the inmates, but a "Catch-22" situation exists. The construction plan envisions evacuating and gutting the North Block and demolishing the prison industries building. The plan then calls for locating prison industries in the renovated North Block and constructing a new housing unit at the current prison industries site. Thus, implementation of the plan is hindered by a reverse-domino effect; one phase cannot be started until the preceding phase has been completed. As such, the initial phase requires a complete evacuation of the North Block, and the current glut of inmates makes this impossible.
Superintendent Petsock testified that he had originally evacuated the top tiers of the North Block in anticipation of this plan, and he continues to keep the top tiers empty, hoping that the construction will begin. However, both Commissioner Owens and Superintendent Petsock testified that the plan essentially has been shelved because of the unprecedented surge in inmate population and the concomitant inability to evacuate the North Block entirely. Thus, the rising inmate population undercuts any realistic expectation of implementing the construction plan which, ironically, was designed to alleviate overcrowding.
3. Environmental Conditions
Age and overcrowding have taken their toll on the physical facilities in both the North and South Blocks, resulting in deplorable environmental conditions. The cell blocks are filthy, dingy and dimly lit. The individual cells are dirty, decrepit and unsanitary. Robert W. Powitz, Ph.D., plaintiffs' expert in environmental health, testified that dirty walls and floors, and the collection of garbage and filth, provide breeding places for vectors and encourage the growth of disease-causing micro-organisms.
Depending on the individual inmate's hygienic habits, the level of sanitation varies within each cell. No housekeeping plan or adequate supervision of general housekeeping exists; thus, the inmates have sole responsibility for cell sanitation. Mentally ill inmates housed in the North Block substantially affect sanitation within the cell because many of these inmates refuse to clean themselves or their cells. Moreover, when a cell is vacated, no terminal cleaning is done prior to the inmate's reassignment. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 673 at 9.
Endemic bed bugs occupy the institution, particularly in the North and South Blocks. The cotton-covered mattresses, infested with bed bugs, cannot be cleaned, and in fact, are not sanitized between users. This poses a health danger whereby respiratory or enteric diseases can be transmitted to inmates who are required to sleep on the soiled mattresses. However, SCIP is now distributing new mattresses to the inmates. Testimony of Harry Steigman, Defendants' expert on Environmental Health.
Besides being soiled and dirty, the torn and damaged mattresses provide shelter for disease-carrying insects, such as mites, fleas and lice. In addition, the North and South Blocks are infested with mice. Corrections Officer Michael O'Toole testified that more than 100 mice had recently been trapped in the North Block.
In winter, the common areas of the tiers are ventilated with forced air; during summer open windows provide ambient air. To open the higher windows, corrections officers must push them with a pole, sometimes breaking them. Inmates also break the windows by throwing objects at them in an effort to ventilate the cell blocks.
Numerous broken windows without window screens enable a significant bird population to nest in the pipe chases and to drop feces on the floors and railings of the tiers. At times, the waste material from birds has been so dense that it has virtually covered the cell block windows. The bird feces pose significant health risks because they can transmit a number of serious diseases to humans. According to Dr. Powitz, the aggregate bird population in the cell blocks spans several generations of birds. Our inspection of the cell blocks revealed a pseudo-aviary with sparrows chirping constantly and flying freely through the dimly lit corridors of the cell blocks.
Like the level of sanitation, the physical facilities in the cells are atrocious. The blocks lack operating systems to assure adequate air movement. Indeed, Dr. Powitz conducted ventilation tests in six cells and discovered a paucity of air movement in those cells. Although each cell was originally equipped with a vent, these were, at some time in the past, filled with cement. Moreover, operable fans installed in the cell block ceiling are not used to exhaust air or to provide any type of air circulation.
Defendants' expert environmentalist, Harry Steigman, agreed with Dr. Powitz that the ventilation in the cells is wholly inadequate, and commented that open windows on a breezy day provide the only source of air in the cells.
The insufficient ventilation system not only significantly increases the risk of transmission of airborne diseases, but also results in excessive odors, heat and humidity.
Likewise, both Dr. Powitz and Mr. Steigman noted that the cell blocks lack systems to control the temperatures and humidity. Windows without exterior window shades or any method to exclude solar radiation on hot days permit unbearable temperature levels. During the winter months, the cells are cold and drafty due to the chronically broken windows. However, each cell block is equipped with two large air-moving units which heat the facility during the winter months. According to both experts, if the windows are closed and in relatively good repair, the heat distribution in the cell blocks is adequate.
Cell lighting is wholly inadequate in the double cells. Only one double lamp fluorescent unit is mounted above the upper bunk. The inmate controls the on/off switch, located outside the cell, from inside by pulling on a string.
The desk lighting, measuring only 7 footcandles, is also inadequate. Consequently, an inmate occupying the lower bunk or sitting at the desk must do all of his reading during the daylight hours. Dr. Powitz commented, "while the upper bunk lighting level conforms to acceptable standards, the lower bunk and desk area are far below a comfortable level which is conducive to reading, writing or hobbycraft." Plaintiffs' Exhibit 673 at 10. In addition to causing eye strain, the inadequate lighting impedes the inmates' ability to clean thoroughly and move around safely.
The plumbing at the institution is in serious disrepair. Commenting on the plumbing facilities at SCIP, Mr. Steigman stated that the institution is full of leaks and puddles. The drain lines under the South Block showers are dilapidated, resulting in septic water standing in the basement. Moreover, the leaks in the basement have corroded the electrical system and promoted the growth of fungus and vermin.
Nearly all of the commodes in the cells are constructed of old, cracked and porous vitreous china. These cracks harbor a buildup of urine sediment, resulting in noxious odors. Moreover, the paraffin filler at the bottom of the commodes often has dried out, causing occasional waste-water flooding on the cell floors. Rough concrete walls prevent adequate clean-up of urine splashed on the back and side walls. Water puddles on the cell floors, coupled with the poor level of sanitation, provide a living environment conducive to roach and rodent infestations.
SCIP officials take no measures to prevent plumbing problems in the cell block pipe chase. Although stop-gap repairs have been undertaken, no attempt has been made to remedy the problems permanently by building new risers or runs. Apparently, the SCIP maintenance policy regarding plumbing has been to patch, rather than to replace the pipes. During even these temporary plumbing repairs, the toilets in the affected cells are unusable, resulting in the accumulation of human waste for as long as 2 days.
The shower facilities (or lack thereof) are one of the most serious problems in the institution. In the North and South Blocks, they are completely inadequate for the number of inmates who use them. Twelve showers serve 273 inmates in the North Block, or one shower for every 33 inmates. Similarly, in the South Block, 12 showers, or one shower per 62 inmates, are available for 741 inmates. Consequently, at most, inmates can shower 3 times each week.
But a more serious problem is the lack of security. The showers, located at the end of the cell block, are far out of view of the corrections officer stationed at the door at the opposite end of the block. As a result, the perilously unsupervised shower area causes the weaker inmates who fear attacks in the shower to take "bird baths" from the sinks in their cells. Corrections officers, inmates and experts alike agreed that real dangers exist in these showers, where predators await weaker prisoners.
The showers are poorly maintained, as evidenced by broken and plugged shower heads and faucets. Although many are inoperable, others run continuously. When we toured the institution, several showers, not currently in use, were running at full blast. Like the cells, lighting is also insufficient in the showers because the electrical system has degenerated and become nonfunctional.
Body greases, bacterial slime and fungus stain the shower tiles, thus facilitating health and sanitation problems. The showers are encrusted with dirt, and slime has accumulated in the chronically wet areas. Passing the showers on our tour, we noticed a heavy septic smell emanating from the area and wondered how any inmate could tolerate the physical conditions of the shower long enough to wash himself.
4. Effects of Overcrowding
The physical plant and infrastructure of the prison have undoubtedly been strained by overcrowding. By defendants' own admission, SCIP has been and continues to be seriously overcrowded. James A. Wigton, Deputy Superintendent for Treatment at SCIP, noting a 10% annual increase in the inmate population, testified that SCIP has been overcrowded for the past five years.
In a 1983 memorandum to former Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Commissioner, Ronald J. Marks, Superintendent Petsock, commenting on the overcrowded conditions at SCIP, wrote:
. . . staff are tremendously overtaxed with short fuses. Inmates are on edge because they are elbow to elbow. An increase of any type beyond what we are holding now could be a very dangerous situation. In view of all of my remarks, I feel we are doing a good job with good control with what we have. I did not want to leave you with the impression we were running out of control, but anymore increase in population could and probably will cause problems.
Plaintiffs' Exhibit 469 at 2.
In 1983, when that memorandum was written, the SCIP population was 1325 inmates. Today, the institution houses over 1800 inmates.
Every witness who testified at the trial condemned double-celling in the North and South Blocks. For years, SCIP had a policy against double-celling inmates because of the small size of the cells and the concomitant consequences of double-celling. However, overcrowding and chronic staff shortages necessitated a change in this policy.
E. Eugene Miller, plaintiffs' expert penologist, noted that double-celling in the North and South Blocks has served to increase the opportunity for predatory activities and facilitated the spread of disease, already extant due to the unsanitary conditions and the close physical proximity of inmates in the cells.
Several qualified experts testified concerning the negative physical and psychological effects resulting from close confinement with a complete dearth of privacy in the small cells at SCIP. Most notably, stress, anxiety and depression are all enhanced. These problems, associated with double-celling in general, are more acute when, as here, inmates are double-celled in 39 or 56 square feet cells.
Moreover, the evidence reveals that the inefficient inmate classification system for pairing cellmates has exacerbated the negative effects of double-celling. The record is replete with instances where an inmate has been double-celled, even though his propensity for violence, emotional instability, primitive personal hygiene habits or past encounters with a designated cell partner clearly dictated that he should be single-celled. Although no system works perfectly, the seriously flawed classification system at SCIP is likely to continue to jeopardize the inmates' physical and mental well-being.
Clinic psychologists make classification decisions when the inmate first enters SCIP; an orientation committee initially screens the inmate to determine his eligibility for double-celling in the general population. However, because in the Clinic, as elsewhere, overcrowding is at an all time high, many new inmate arrivals are double-celled there before a counselor has evaluated them.
According to the written guidelines and procedures for double-celling, an inmate is ineligible for double-celling if he exhibits assaultive, aggressive or sexual behavior problems, or if he has serious psychiatric or medical problems. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 508. Initially, the inmate provides the only source of this information, which is not independently verified, and no outside resources exist for confirming information that would preclude double-celling. Since inmates rarely admit deviate sexuality, Clinic inmates harboring these traits are often cleared for double-celling before the housing officer knows that a problem exists.
In theory, a caseworker supervisor should record the inmates's classification status on a form for the housing officer. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 508. However, Lt. McFetridge testified that officials at SCIP have not kept such a list since October 1987. Accordingly, although procedure calls for a formal screening process, its effectiveness is questionable.
Inmates approved for double-celling are given one or two hours to arrange for a cellmate before the housing officer assigns them one. Lt. McFetridge testified that, once an inmate has been cleared for double-celling, his only criterion is racial compatibility; he will not pair racially diverse individuals.
Inmates can remove themselves from a double-celling arrangement only by mutual consent; each must locate a new cellmate before the housing officer will reassign either of them. Accordingly, dominant inmates can control the fate of their vulnerable cellmates simply by refusing to locate another cellmate. However, Lt. McFetridge stated that under these circumstances, he would reassign the weaker inmate and would give the uncooperative inmate a "misconduct," placing him in the restrictive housing unit in disciplinary custody.
In addition, the overcrowding has created counterproductive practices in which inmates in self-lockup or protective custody have been paired with inmates assigned to administrative segregation, a status reserved for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. Placing the weaker inmates, who either have requested protective custody or have been assigned to it for their safety, with inmates in administrative segregation is akin to "putting the chickens in the fox's lair." Testimony of E. Eugene Miller.
In short, the decision to double-cell is motivated more by the unavailability of single-cells due to overcrowding and lack of staff than by the inmate's suitability for double-celling. Indeed, Superintendent Petsock testified that between 40 and 60 double-cell assignments are made each day at SCIP. This Court was presented with plenty of evidence regarding the physical and psychological pain that the inmates have suffered as a result of double-celling. Plaintiffs' Exhibits 540-574.
For example, the testimony of one inmate, whom we shall identify as AB, revealed that he had been double-celled in both the small and large cells with inmates who did not meet the institution's standards for double-celling. AB's first cellmate was a "jailhouse lawyer" who stored 17 boxes of legal material in his cell. His second cellmate, characterized as assaultive and a homosexual rapist, had been diagnosed as having a schizoid personality with paranoid tendencies.
AB's third cellmate was a "psychiatrically disturbed, filthy and mumbling inmate;" and his fourth cellmate, a severely paranoid psychotic, soaked his sheets with water and stood on the toilet for 6 hours one night. Chief Psychiatrist Herbert Thomas, M.D. had ordered that AB, by now exhausted, remain single-celled for a minimum of 4 weeks. However, he was double-celled 5 days later with an inmate who eventually stabbed him. Currently, AB is double-celled, against the advice of three psychiatrists, with a severely mentally ill inmate.
Although inmates testified regarding cellmate incompatibility, apparently the housing assignment officials are not responsive, primarily because they cannot find enough space to permit cell reassignments. But the space exists and is unavailable only due to a shortage of staff. Sadly, mounting overcrowding will force continued double-celling, promoting the concomitant likelihood of a fatal pairing.
b. Recreational Facilities
SCIP has a serious shortage of recreational space. In recent years, the construction of new buildings has reduced the area for outdoor exercise to approximately one-half the size of a standard football field, obviously a small yard for over 1800 inmates. The paucity of space coupled with the severe overcrowding has shortened the amount of time inmates can spend outdoors. Consequently, inmates spend more time in their cells, unable to vent tensions and frustrations through exercise.
Moreover, the gymnasium and auditorium are poorly guarded due to inadequate staffing. Ideally, use of these areas should aid in release of tensions. Instead, inmates encounter hostility and conflict, as stronger and more organized inmates openly prey on the weaker and less organized inmates. Several inmates testified that they were afraid to use the gym and auditorium, fearing they would be caught up in a violent altercation.
When we visited the auditorium, a lone corrections officer was stationed at the entrance. Testimony confirmed that normally he is the only officer in the auditorium.
c. Dining, Laundry Service and Clothing Supplies
Overcrowding has also hindered the institution's ability to provide dining and laundry service to the inmates. A constant stream of inmates flows through the dining area, preventing employees from cleaning the tables between sittings and the dining hall between shifts. In 1983, Superintendent Petsock wrote, "we are so overtaxed with the increased population (holding 400 inmates more than we were designed for) by the time we finish feeding one meal, we start on the next one." Plaintiffs' Exhibit 469 at 1. Today SCIP has 500 more inmates than when Superintendent Petsock penned that memo.
The ovens and ranges in food service operate at least 12 hours per day. Food service, originally designed to feed between 500 and 600 inmates per shift, now must accommodate over 1800 inmates. To meet demand, food is perpetually prepared and served from 5:00 A.M. until 11:00 P.M. Approximately two million meals a year are provided at the prison.
In addition, this Court was presented with numerous inmate grievances in which the inmates complained that they did not receive underwear, towels, bedding and jackets. Inmates must often "borrow" these items from other prisoners, and must pay for them with either usurious interest rates or sexual favors. E. Eugene Miller stated that SCIP officials do not willfully deprive inmates of supplies; rather, because of overcrowding, the demand has simply overwhelmed the supply.
In Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981), the United States Supreme Court established a threshold standard for eighth amendment violations which requires that conditions of confinement amount to "an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Id. at 347. Such a standard can be met by demonstrating living conditions which seriously deprive the inmates of "basic human needs" or which deprive the inmates of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. Constitutional analysis of prison conditions constantly changes; criteria are derived from the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101, 2 L. Ed. 2d 630, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958) (plurality opinion).
When a court is faced with a comprehensive challenge to prison conditions, it must examine each specific condition to determine whether the particular condition violates the eighth amendment. Capps v. Atiyeh, 559 F. Supp. 894, 900 (D. Or. 1983). However, individual unconstitutional conditions are often the result of several contributing factors; they do not exist in a vacuum. Thus, although overcrowding itself is not necessarily a constitutional violation, it can contribute to the effect of every deficiency in the prison's operations. Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1249 (9th Cir. 1982). Accordingly, it is the effects which flow from the overcrowding that form the basis for the constitutional violation, not necessarily the overcrowding itself.
Now, we address the inmates' claims that the overcrowding at SCIP has reached a level at which the institution is unfit for human habitation, and that the inadequate food service and sanitation amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
We begin our analysis by examining the dimensions of the cells. Various professional corrections organizations have attempted to establish the minimum number of square feet that should be provided to an inmate. However, according to the United States Supreme Court, the recommendations of these groups "do not establish the constitutional minima," but "may be instructive in certain cases." Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 543 n. 27; Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348 n. 13. Interpreting this directive from the Supreme Court, many courts have used these professional recommendations as some indication of what constitutes the "evolving standard of decency," and thus have relied on such standards as one factor in their analysis of the adequacy of an institution's housing facilities. Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F. Supp. 1265, 1285 (S.D. Tex. 1980).
The American Correctional Association ("ACA") has promulgated standards for adult correctional institutions, many of which are labeled mandatory by the ACA and must be complied with to achieve accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections. ACA, Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions, vii (2d ed. 1981). The standards of the ACA require that in general population housing, 60 square feet of cell space be provided prisoners who spend no more than 10 hours per day in their cells, and that 80 square feet be provided to prisoners whose confinement exceeds 10 hours per day. Id., at standard 2-4129 (Supp. 1988).
The American Public Health Association ("APHA") requires a minimum of 60 square feet per person in single cells. APHA, Standards for Health Services in Correctional Institutions (1976).
Many courts have attempted to establish standards for acceptable minimum living space. For example, in Battle v. Anderson, 564 F.2d 388, 395 (10th Cir. 1977), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that 60 square feet of living space in a cell was constitutionally adequate. However, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Ahrens v. Thomas, 434 F. Supp. 873, 901 (W.D. Mo. 1977), held that 70 square feet was the minimum. A survey of the caselaw on this issue reveals that 60 to 70 square feet per cell constitutes the present "evolving standard of decency" regarding cell space per inmate. See Inmates of the Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht, 699 F. Supp. 1137, 1144 (W.D. Pa. 1988).
Measured against the 60 to 70 square feet criterion, the cell space in the North and South Blocks is completely deficient. The "large cells" in these cell blocks are 56 square feet, 23 of which represents uninterrupted space. The small cells, all of which are located in the North Block, are only 39 square feet with 15 square feet of uninterrupted space. Nevertheless, double-celling occurs in both cell configurations. Even if space were the only consideration in evaluating the constitutionality of the shelter provided to inmates at SCIP, the paucity of space in each cell would offend the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
However, in Union County Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d 984, 999 (3d Cir. 1983), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that it is improper for a court to rely exclusively on per capita square footage recommendations or the number of inmates occupying one cell when analyzing the constitutional adequacy of shelter. Id. We must do more. The court must consider the "totality of circumstances" which bears on the nature of the shelter afforded to sentenced inmates, such as the general state of repair of the facilities, the amount of time prisoners must spend in their cells each day, and the "opportunities for inmate activities outside of the cells." Id. at 999, 1000. See Dohner v. McCarthy, 635 F. Supp. 408, 425 (C.D. Cal. 1985) (Although single-celling in a cell measuring 56 square feet is undesirable, it is not unconstitutional when adequate cleanliness, ventilation and sanitation exist). We found no caselaw in which prisoners were double-celled in 56 square foot cells, let alone 39 square foot cells.
We will now consider those other factors.
In addition to the deficiency in cell size, the North and South Blocks are in a serious state of disrepair and fail to meet the health and safety needs of the prisoners in many respects.
The ventilation in all of the cells is wholly inadequate and far below ACA standards. Proper ventilation prevents the accumulation of odors, smoke, dust and other contaminants, and thus hinders the spread of disease. ACA standards call for circulation of at least 10 cubic feet of outside or recirculated filtered air per minute per human occupant. ACA, standard 2-4130 (Supp. 1988). However, Dr. Powitz reported that there was no detectable air flow in the 6 cells that he tested.
Insufficient ventilation, which undermines the health of the inmates and the sanitation of the institution, itself violates the eighth amendment. Moreover, a lack of ventilation coupled with double-celling increases the likelihood of disease, as well as frustration brought on by uncomfortable temperatures and odors.
Like ventilation, adequate lighting is one of the fundamental attributes of "adequate shelter" required by the eighth amendment. Hoptowit v. Spellman, 753 F.2d 779, 783 (10th Cir. 1985). Lighting in the double cells is completely insufficient. Since the cells were not designed to house two inmates, the virtually nonexistent lighting for inmates on the lower bunks fails to meet the minimum requirement of 20 footcandles of illumination prescribed by the ACA. ACA, standard 2-4130 (Supp. 1988). As a result, at least one inmate in a cramped double cell cannot divert himself by reading or engaging in hobbycraft and, in addition, may suffer eyestrain. Certainly, inadequate lighting impedes attempts at basic sanitation. Insofar as double-celling is concerned, the lighting deficit amounts to a violation of the eighth amendment.
Similarly, the status of sanitation in the blocks is unconstitutional. The cells are dirty, ill-maintained and unsanitary. The institution lacks adequate cleaning supplies, making cleaning virtually impossible. No formal housekeeping plan exists, and when a cell is vacated, no terminal cleaning is done prior to reassignment.
Other circumstances contribute to the filth. The cracked and uncleanable commodes result in an odiferous and unsightly white-scale urine buildup. Bed bugs, their number directly related to the close proximity of the cells and double-celling, are rampant throughout the North and South Blocks. Finally, the birds living in the blocks defecate on the tiers outside the cells, contributing to the potential spread of disease.
Sanitation is one of the basic human needs guaranteed by the eighth amendment. Union County Jail, 713 F.2d at 984 n. 19 (citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348). We hold that conditions at SCIP are inconsistent with the eighth amendment entitlement to sufficient sanitation and that the health hazards associated with these deficiencies amount to an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. Hoptowit, 753 F.2d at 783. The discomfort associated with the minimum cell space is thus magnified by the intolerable and unconstitutional physical conditions of the cells.
The number of showers in the North and South Blocks, even assuming each is operable, is insufficient to meet the basic physical needs of the inmates. There is only one shower for each 33 inmates in the North Block and one shower for 62 inmates in the South Block -- and these often are out of order. Consequently, inmates are fortunate if they can shower three times a week. ACA standards recommend that each inmate shower daily, and that no inmate bathe less than three times each week. ACA, standard 2-4268 (2d ed. 1981). In addition, the ACA recommends a ratio of one shower to 15 inmates. Id. The paucity of showers at SCIP deprives the inmates of basic hygiene and threatens their physical and mental well-being.
Food service and facilities are incredibly strained by the overcrowding. The number of inmates that must be fed makes it impossible to clean the dining room adequately between meal times, creating unsanitary conditions. However, although plaintiffs' expert was critical of several aspects of food service, our unannounced inspection revealed a clean and well-maintained kitchen and dining area. Indeed, Mr. Steigman testified that the institution has eliminated recently most of the past health infractions such as improper dishwasher settings, incomplete cleaning, observable insect and rodent infestation, and improper food temperatures.
We hold that although room for improvement exists, the food service conditions do not amount to a constitutional violation. Furthermore, we commend the institution staff for attempting to remedy the past infirmities and encourage it to maintain compliance with public health standards, recognizing that it is in the best interest of both the staff and inmates to do so.
The amount of time inmates spend in their cells is pivotal in determining whether the conditions of their confinement are unconstitutional. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 543, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1976). Inmates at SCIP have been locked in their cells for increasingly long periods each day. The South Block and much of the North Block house general population inmates who spend roughly 13 to 15 hours per day in their cells. However, the North Block also houses the overflow of Clinic inmates, who spend 16 hours a day in their cells, and administrative segregation inmates, who are locked in for 22 hours a day. Clearly, the long periods of time that SCIP prisoners spend in their filthy, unsanitary quarters seriously aggravate the discomfort created by the size of the cells themselves.
Unfortunately, SCIP recreational areas cannot alleviate the discomfort caused by the deplorable cell conditions. SCIP does not have ample facilities to satisfy most inmates' basic need for physical exercise. The shortage of recreational space, coupled with severe overcrowding, reduces the amount of time inmates can spend outdoors and increases the time they must spend in their cells. Moreover, because security is completely inadequate in the gymnasium and the auditorium, corrections officers cannot properly supervise inmates or prevent them from preying upon, or corrupting, each other. As a result, many inmates, fearing danger, opt to remain in their cells rather than utilize the recreational areas.
Apparently, without court intervention, double-celling at SCIP will exist into the infinite future. Approximately 70% of the inmates at SCIP are double-celled, and according to Superintendent Petsock, the constant overcrowding at SCIP renders double-celling inevitable and indefinite. Inmates have little chance of being transferred to single-cells at any time during their incarceration.
Furthermore, SCIP is a long-term confinement institution; although the average time served is two years, many inmates serve longer sentences, life sentences and death sentences. Apropos here is Justice Stevens' pithy comment in Hutto v. Finney : "[a] filthy overcrowded cell and a diet of 'gruel' may be tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months." Hutto, 437 U.S. at 686-87.
Similarly, in Bell v. Wolfish, the Supreme Court recognized that the length of confinement is a factor in analyzing the constitutionality of the conditions of confinement. In Bell v. Wolfish, however, the Court was analyzing an average term of 60 days confinement when it stated, "we simply do not believe that requiring a detainee to share toilet facilities and this admittedly rather small sleeping place with another person for generally a maximum period of 60 days violates the Constitution." Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 543.
Unlike the 60 days at issue in Bell v. Wolfish, the conditions of confinement at SCIP have no foreseeable end. Here, we believe the longer confinement periods make double-celling all the more intolerable.
The overcrowding at SCIP has also impeded the prison staff's ability to be flexible and responsive to individual needs and problems. There simply are not enough single cells utilized to accommodate inmates who have medical, psychological or emotional problems. As such, the staff has been virtually forced to abandon the institution's procedures and policies for double-celling, with the result that violent, delusional and predatory inmates are often paired with other inmates. Double-celling under these circumstances amounts to a cruel and unwarranted infliction of pain.
Accordingly, we hold that the combination of inadequate cell size, unsanitary conditions, lack of ventilation, poor lighting, and inadequate and filthy shower facilities at SCIP creates an unconstitutional situation. Overcrowding has led to the deterioration of critical living requirements, and has magnified the stress of simple survival in the North and South Blocks. This aggregation of conditions makes the cells constitutionally unfit for one inmate, let alone two, thus depriving SCIP inmates of the adequate shelter to which the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution entitles them.
Having identified the specific conditions which violate the Constitution, our remedial task is to cause those conditions to be corrected and to bring the prison into constitutional compliance. We are mindful that we must devise the least intrusive remedy possible so as not to substitute court initiatives for prison administration.
Although we have held that even single-celling inmates in the small or large cells in the North and South Blocks is unconstitutional, we realize that population and space dilemmas plague SCIP officials. We also recognize that the Commonwealth has allocated monies for the construction of new housing at SCIP and that the institution has developed a plan for that construction. The hurdle has been the glut of inmates which makes implementation impossible. We emphasize that new housing at SCIP is urgently needed and essential to alleviate the unconstitutional living conditions.
Accordingly, defendants (hopefully in cooperation with the Pennsylvania legislature and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections) will have to devise a plan whereby the North and South Blocks will be replaced within a reasonable time so as to eliminate the constitutionally inadequate cells in this area. This will undoubtedly mean a reduction in SCIP inmates at least during the renovation. The Commonwealth will have to cooperate in these arrangements.
Prompt action is necessary to relieve the egregious conditions imposed on inmates by double-celling. With sufficient staff, more cells can be utilized. Defendants will have to take immediate steps to eliminate double-celling in the North and South Blocks by hiring sufficient additional corrections officers to staff the now vacant tiers. However, we will permit an exception to single-ceiling. If two inmates request to live together, and prison authorities do not object to the inmates sharing a cell, then those inmates may double-cell.
The lack of adequate corrections staffing at SCIP not only has prevented the use of otherwise available cells, but has also created a dangerous living environment for SCIP inmates.
Reported inmate assaults numbered 69 in 1988, 123 in 1987, 81 in 1986, 138 in 1985, and 76 in 1984. For inmate assaults, SCIP administrators issued 52 "misconducts" in 1988, 30 in 1987, 52 in 1986, 51 in 1985, and 65 in 1984. A misconduct in this context is issued only after the disciplinary board determines ...