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VAZQUEZ v. CARVER

October 5, 1989

RANDOLPH VAZQUEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TIMOTHY CARVER, et al., Defendants


Daniel H. Huyett, 3rd, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUYETT, 3RD

DANIEL H. HUYETT, 3RD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 INTRODUCTION

 This class action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of present and future inmates of Lehigh County Prison (LCP). Plaintiffs have challenged various conditions of their confinement at LCP. *fn1"

 After hearing extensive testimony regarding the conditions and personally touring the prison, I denied plaintiffs' initial motion for a preliminary injunction on July 27, 1987. In my Memorandum and Order denying this injunction, I expressed serious concerns regarding the then existing conditions at LCP and sent a strong signal to the defendants that upon the making of a more complete record "the totality of the conditions at LCP will be held to be unconstitutional." In addition, my decision denying injunctive relief was based to a large extent upon my findings that the new prison administration had discontinued past practices which would have seriously worsened the conditions at LCP and that the record did not support a conclusion that these practices would be reinstated. *fn2" As will be explained below, the record before me demonstrates that the prison officials have resumed such practices because of the substantial increase of the prison population since 1987.

 Subsequent to my decision in 1987, the parties recently executed and delivered a Consent Decree, for which Court approval is presently pending, which provides that the inmate population at LCP shall be reduced to 242 inmates by November 9, 1989. *fn3" Defendants candidly admit that this deadline will not be reached. However, defendants may be able to transfer approximately 240 inmates to a new facility as early as January 1990.

 Plaintiffs have renewed their motion for a preliminary injunction in light of recent developments which have substantially increased the prison population at LCP. Plaintiffs assert that "during the past 2 1/2 years since the Court issued its Memorandum and Order, the conditions at LCP have considerably worsened to the point where the present conditions of confinement are in violation of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution." Plaintiffs seek the imposition of a cap that would reduce the prison population from approximately 420 inmates to 310 inmates. *fn4"

  This memorandum represents my findings of fact and conclusions of law relating to the renewed motion for a preliminary injunction. Because the plaintiffs have demonstrated that prison over-crowding has significantly increased *fn5" and that conditions of confinement now transgress the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," see Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981), I shall grant the preliminary injunction. Defendants shall have a period of forty-five (45) days from the date of this order to reduce the present prison population to 310 inmates.

 FINDINGS OF FACT *fn6"

 Lehigh County Prison is located in the center of downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania. The prison's population includes a large percentage of pretrial detainees as well as a number of convicted prisoners awaiting sentencing or serving sentences of five years or less. The prison population consists of approximately 60 % pretrial detainees and 40 % sentenced offenders.

 As with other penological institutions throughout the country, LCP has experienced sudden and drastic increases in its inmate population in recent years. In 1972, the prison population averaged 90 inmates; however, within three years the population more than doubled to 200 prisoners. By 1986, the population rose to the level of over 300 inmates. Presently, LCP has approximately 420 prisoners.

 OLD JAIL

 The original structure, known as the Old Jail, of LCP was built in 1867. Since that time, the physical facilities have been expanded to include several distinct living areas. I will briefly discuss each of these areas separately.

 The Old Jail, used to house general population prisoners, consists of two floors containing 17 cells each. I previously found that approximately 104 square feet of floor space exits for each cell, and that the lighting and ventilation was poor in this area of the prison. Each cell in the Old Jail contained two double-tier bunk beds, four footlockers, and a toilet and sink unit. In most of the Old Jail cells, four prisoners occupied each cell which allowed an average of 26 square feet of space per prisoner. In this section, prisoners received nearly seven hours of "block out" time per day that could be spent in 1465 square feet of "day area" space on the ground floor. *fn7"

 NB1 AND NB2

 NB1 and NB2 are two cell areas which comprise that part of LCP known as the "New Building." NB1 houses the inmates employed in various jobs throughout the prison, while NB2 was utilized to temporarily quarter those inmates awaiting classification and permanent cell assignments. Both NB1 and NB2 contain 12 cells, each measuring approximately 70 square feet each. Each cell is equipped with one double-tier bunk bed, two wardrobe footlockers, a desk, a chair and a toilet and sink unit. At the time of the first preliminary injunction hearing, only two inmates occupied each of the NB1 and NB2 cells. *fn8"

 The evidence produced at the current hearing demonstrates that 11 of the 12 cells are presently being occupied by three inmates. The third inmate is required to sleep on a mattress located on the floor near the toilet and sink unit. Accordingly, inmates in these cells are now provided with only approximately 23 square feet of space as opposed to the 35 feet of space available in 1987.

 In addition, 10 inmates have been assigned to cots in the day area of this section and eight other inmates have been quartered in office space equipped with cots in NB2. The twelfth cell in NB2 remains vacant so that those inmates presently housed in the office area and day area of NB2, a total of 18 inmates, may utilize the bathroom facilities of this cell. Prisoners in NB2 are also restricted to their cells for the majority of the day and the four hours of "block out" time available to them is restricted to the hallway of the NB2 section of LCP.

 I find that NB1 is presently used to house both prisoners who have already been classified and those awaiting classification contrary to prison policy.

 While crowding has not substantially affected the NB1 section of LCP, Warden Meisel testified that three inmates are presently being housed in ...


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