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CAMPBELL v. MCGRUDER

May 24, 1976

LEONARD CAMPBELL et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDERSON McGRUDER et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRYANT

 I. Overcrowding.

 On January 12, 1976, the United States Court of Appeals heard argument on cross-motions for summary affirmance and summary reversal of this Court's Interim Order of March 21, 1975, prohibiting overcrowding and for vacation of the stay of that Order entered by the Court of Appeals on April 4, 1975 and continued in effect since that time. According to the memorandum filed by the Court of Appeals, it was represented to the Court on that date that the Jail was then in compliance with the 48 square feet per man requirement of this Court's original order and that there would be 240 spaces available for occupancy at the New Detention Facility by February 28, 1976 and another 240 by April 1, affording the prospect that further violations of plaintiffs' constitutional rights by overcrowding would not recur in the near future. ("Plaintiffs" is used herein to refer to both convicted and unconvicted residents. There are no significant differences in the manner in which they are treated by defendants.)

 In mid-January, 1976, notwithstanding the above-mentioned representations, the D.C. Jail was again out of compliance with the 48 square-feet requirement and continued in that status into late April, 1976. Following a visit (unannounced) by this Court to the Jail on April 7, an order was issued setting the matter for hearing, held on April 29-30. It appears that compliance with the order was again achieved within days of the April 29 hearing. No prompt notice of the earlier overcrowding was given by the defendants to the Court or to counsel for plaintiffs.

 During most of the period from mid-January to mid-April, more than 200 persons at a time were held in violation of this Court's March 1975 order, most of them double-housed in the 136 one-man cells in Cell Block 2, in the oldest and most dilapidated part of the Jail. Although some efforts were made to rotate these individuals into other housing locations at the Jail where, although 48 square feet was not available, there would be at least some ability to move about, the overcrowding of all parts of the Jail increased until this was no longer possible, with the result that some persons spent more than a month double-housed in CB-2.

 Since January, 1976, the population of Detention Services has continued to rise. For male residents, the average daily population from February 8 through April 17, 1976 was 1080, but the population has gone as high as 1148 on particular days. (Although the Department continually changes its view of the capacity of the Jail at 48 square feet per man, the Court finds that 850 spaces was the capacity beyond which conditions at the Jail violate plaintiffs' constitutional rights. This total includes 272 cells in CB-1 and CB-2, currently vacant and unsafe for further use.)

 Perhaps more significant is the fact that of those New Admissions who were received from the courts, 90-95% of whom (as previously stated) were in a pre-trial status, approximately half were persons charged with misdemeanor offenses, confined in lieu of bail. While the weekly summaries prepared by the Department of Corrections of admissions during this ten-week period include persons charged with robbery, homicide, burglary and other serious felonies, the number of persons committed as a result of charges for such relatively minor offenses as tampering with an auto, attempted petit larceny, destroying property, etc. is striking. Indeed, during the ten-week period studied, 140 individuals were committed for traffic offenses.

 For those persons held at the Jail awaiting Superior Court trials, approximately twelve weeks intervene between initial arraignment and trial if the charge is a misdemeanor. If the defendant is charged with a felony, more than seven weeks will elapse between arrest and indictment, followed by eight to ten weeks before conviction, acquittal or dismissal, and an additional four weeks for sentencing for those who are convicted.

 The "Recommit" category, the source of approximately 40% of the admissions to the Jail, are all sentenced individuals who are held at the Jail almost exclusively because of the administrative decisions and priorities of the Department of Corrections. (A small number in this class is held because of specific court order, usually founded on concern for the individual's safety if housed at the Lorton Correctional Complex.) No reasons, apart from the Department's and the City's funding priorities, exist to justify or require continued housing of most of these individuals at the Jail.

 In early April, 1976, the first inmates were housed in the New Detention Facility (NDF) of the Department of Corrections. The NDF consists of two "modules" for housing inmates, the North Module and the South Module. Each module has 480 one-man cells, arranged in six cell blocks of 80 cells each. The total capacity of NDF will be 960 inmates. Three cell blocks in the North Module were turned over by the builder to the Department about the first week of March. Following inspections and "shakedown" procedures, the first inmates were moved in during the first week of April, and have continued to move in since that time as cells became available. On April 29, 1976, there were slightly over 300 men in the NDF, with the Department predicting a population there of 450-480 by the end of the first week of May.

 The District's Department of General Services supervises the performance by the builder of the construction contract for NDF, and a representative of that Department testified that the South Module (480 cells) would be available for "joint occupancy" about June 30, 1976. "Joint occupancy" refers to a period when both the builder and the Department of Corrections are working at the site, inspecting the construction and repairing defects. Inmates will not be housed at the South Module during the "joint occupancy" period. In light of the experience with the North Module, it may well be August before the first inmates move into the South Module, and the end of the summer before the full complement of 960 spaces are available for housing inmates.

 The cells in CB-1 and CB-2 at the Jail (total 272 cells) will not be used because of their extreme condition of deterioration and structural damage to that part of the Jail which renders them unsafe. Economical repair is not feasible. Funds have been reprogrammed by the Department of Corrections to seal off CB-1, CB-2 and the Rotunda visiting area from the remainder of the Jail. Funding to renovate CB-3 and CB-4 to bring them into compliance with minimal housing standards has not been approved, ...


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