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INMATES OF THE ALLEGHENY CTY. JAIL v. WECHT

June 26, 1992

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: MAURICE B. COHILL, JR.

 COHILL, C.J.

 Introduction

 Presently before us are a number of motions filed on behalf of the defendants, whom we shall refer to as the "County" or "Allegheny County," and also motions by the plaintiff class of inmates, "the inmates."

 (1) Motion to extend the time for closing the old jail and extending the time for completing the new one filed by the County;

 (2) Motion to Increase the Court Ordered Jail Population Limit filed by the County;

 (3) Motion to Dismiss Motion to Increase the Population Limit filed by the inmates;

 (4) Motion to Modify and/or Clarify Order off Court Dated July 7, 1989 (sometimes referred to as the "Consent Decree" or "Stipulation") filed by the County; and

 (5) Motion for Sanctions and/or Additional Relief filed by the inmates.

 For the reasons set forth below, we will grant motions one, two and four and deny three and five.

 This case has a long and tortured history dating back to 1976. *fn1"

 The motions here relate to three basic issues: (i) whether the time to construct the new jail should be extended; (ii) whether the population cap established by this Court at the old main jail facility should be increased pending completion of the new jail; and (iii) whether the consent decree dated July 7, 1989 in which the County had agreed to establish a treatment/work release facility for the mentally ill should be modified.

 Following a hearing conducted on May 1, 21, 27, and 28, 1992, we make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 A. Deadline for Closing of the Jail

 The parties entered into a Stipulation dated July 7, 1989, which was approved by this Court. Item 11 of the Stipulation provides in relevant part:

 The Plaintiffs hereby agree that the Old Allegheny County Jail facility must be kept open pending either its renovation or its replacement by a new facility until June 30, 1992. The Defendants shall advise the Court no later than October 1, 1989 as to whether they will renovate or close the jail. . . . If, in the opinion of the Court, the County is making reasonably prompt progress in implementing all of its plans for housing inmates, the Court will favorably consider requests for reasonable extensions of time for said renovations or construction.

 Winston Churchill is credited with saying, "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing -- after all other options have been exhausted." That seems to have more or less been the case here.

 Nevertheless, the "right thing" is finally being done by Allegheny County. The Court is aware that the County has undertaken the construction of a $ 147 million dollar Criminal Justice Complex which will house up to 2,400 prisoners. It is obvious that the project will not be completed by June 30, 1992. The County has informed the Court that the inmates should be residing in the new facility by November of 1994.

 The inmates apparently recognize that we cannot simply close the ACJ. They request, however, that if we grant the extension, we should order the County (1) to fully and adequately explain why additional time is needed, (2) to develop additional community release beds to relieve the pressure of overcrowding, particularly as to the special populations in the old jail, and (3) to employ someone to assess independently the fire safety and staffing at the Jail, and follow that individual's recommendations.

 As to item (1), we believe that the 18 monthly progress reports that the County has submitted since August 29, 1990 have fully apprised the inmates on the progress that is being made on the new jail. The inmates' attorney receives a copy of these reports. Therefore, we will deny this request.

 In item (2), the inmates ask that we order the County to develop additional community release beds to alleviate the overcrowding at the ACJ. We decline to order them to do this. In the progress report dated June 1, 1992, Robert Coll, Director of the Criminal Justice Division, stated that the County will maintain its work-release programs and housing contracts, and will expand when necessary. Such determinations must be left in the hands of those county officials absent special circumstances which we feel no longer exist here. See Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail, U.S. , 116 L. Ed. 2d 867, 891, 112 S. Ct. 748 (1992). We also note that the County has developed 179 beds at the Public Safety Building since the Consent Decree and has contracted for over 300 other placements beyond the Main Jail and Annex, in various locations including work-release centers, rehabilitation programs, and other county jails. Jail Monitor's Exhibit 2 (5-21-92).

 Finally, in item (3), the inmates request that we order the County to employ an independent expert on fire safety and staffing. While we believe that the inmates' suggestion may have some merit with respect to staffing, we will not order the County to undertake such an evaluation because we are more than satisfied with our Jail Monitor, Lynette Norton, Esq. If she feels that there should be an outside advisor, we will count on her to notify the Court.

 In sum, we commend the County on the progress that it has recently made in this case and in bringing this matter closer to a final conclusion. Therefore, we will grant the County's motion, and extend the closing date of the Jail to December 1, 1994.

 B. Population Cap Issue

 On April 21, 1989, this court permitted an increase in the population cap at the Allegheny county Jail from 540 to the present figure of 578. When we refer to the "Jail" or the "ACJ," we are only discussing the old main jail facility. That increase was made pursuant to an Opinion and Order dated November 17, 1988. Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht, 699 F.Supp. 1137 (W.D.Pa. 1988). In that opinion, we stated:

 The County may house inmates in the 20 utility room areas in the Jail if, in the opinion of the Court Monitor, these are converted to habitable cells. The County may further house up to an additional 20 inmates in the Jail to the extent that the ...


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