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INMATES OF OCCOQUAN v. BARRY

December 22, 1986

INMATES OF OCCOQUAN, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
MARION BARRY, Mayor, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 This action is brought by a class of inmates confined at the Occoquan I, II, and III Facilities of the Lorton Correctional Complex. The Court, on August 13, 1986, certified the class pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as "all persons, present and future, confined to the Occoquan Facilities located on the Lorton reservation operated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections."

 Plaintiffs have filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for deprivation under color of state law of rights secured by the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs contend that an excessive inmate population; deficiencies in environmental health and safety; food services, fire safety, medical and dental services, and mental health care, alone or in combination, violate their rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

 A trial to the Court was followed by extensive post-trial briefing. Plaintiffs presented testimony by five expert and three inmate witnesses. Defendants offered the testimony of five experts and three lay witnesses. Based upon the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, judgment is awarded in plaintiffs' favor.

 I. Findings of Fact

 The Occoquan Facilities have a total of 19 housing units. Occoquan I and II each have seven housing units, while Occoquan III has five housing units. These living quarters, constructed in 1925, are brick buildings with wooden roofs. Transcript ("Tr.") at 1105. The buildings, or dormitories, for the most part are single-story buildings. Each housing unit features a day room in the front, a separation with toilet, shower, and laundry areas, and large squad bay dormitories. The buildings are identified by letter, number, or both. Dormitories J and K are two-story buildings, and Dormitory 5 is in the basement of the gymnasium. Tr. at 30.

 Other facilities include the gymnasium, culinary unit, a small chapel, an outdoor recreation field, and administration and program offices. The Occoquan Facilities, which are classified as medium security institutions, are, of course, ringed with security fencing.

 The population trend at Occoquan indicates that the population has been increasing steadily for the past year, except for the emergency transfer of hundreds of inmates following the riot on July 10, 1986, and the transfer in October 1986, of 200 inmates to the new Modular Facility at the Lorton Complex. Tr. at 741; Plaintiffs' Exhibits 8, 9. On October 21, 1985, the population of the three Occoquan Facilities was 1,397. One year later, October 27, 1986, the population had risen to 1,600, so that it was not far below the level of 1,756 that existed at the time of the July 1986 riot. Tr. at 88. On November 24, 1986, the population at the three Occoquan Facilities had crept up to 1,637. See Daily Population Reports filed with United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Campbell v. McGruder, No. 1462-71 (D.D.C.).

 A. Environmental Conditions

 1. Housing

 Both parties' public health experts concurred that the revised American Public Health Association ("APHA") standard, which allots 95 square feet per inmate, is acceptable as a minimum standard in dormitory situations. Tr. at 473-74, 1270-72. The 95 square-foot figure includes a prescribed 60 square feet per inmate of living space and 35 square feet per inmate for day room space. The APHA standards were written by environmental health and safety professionals and are supported by epidemiological evidence. Tr. at 1213, 1274; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibit 31.

 The accepted method of calculating living space is prescribed by the American Correctional Association ("ACA"). The ACA method of measurement of living space instructs that the calculation of total living space of a housing unit excludes the day room, toilet and shower rooms, as well as traffic corridors. See Plaintiffs' Exhibit 30, 1983 Supplement at 2-4129.

 Applying the APHA 95 square foot per inmate standard, using the ACA method of space calculation, the Occoquan Facilities do not provide adequate living space for inmates. Tr. at 476, 1271; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibits 48 at 40-41. In some places, beds are but seven to nine inches apart. Tr. at 476-77; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibit 48 at 40-43.

 Confining excessive numbers of people in limited spaces significantly increases the risk of transmission of airborne diseases, such as tuberculosis. Tr. at 1273. The inadequate and sometimes nonoperational ventilation system in the Occoquan dormitories greatly exacerbates this serious health risk. Tr. at 444-48, 513-14, 749, 1223-27, 1253; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibits 14ii; 14jj; 45 at 35; 48 at 34-35.

 Plaintiffs' and defendants' medical experts also noted that inadequate medical screening of the population entering Occoquan's dormitories compounds further the risk of transmission of airborne communicable diseases. Tr. at 195-203, 1074-78; see also infra at 29. Inadequate ventilation aggravates this "seeding" of the population and increases the risk of the spread of airborne communicable diseases. Tr. at 195-96, 448-51.

 As one might well expect, greater numbers confined in limited spaces result in greater noise levels, as well. There was uncontradicted expert testimony that excessive noise levels were prevalent in the living and day room areas of the dormitories. Tr. at 456, 1124-26; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibit 48 at 37. Plaintiffs' environmental expert, Ward Duel, found that noise levels in the dormitories often exceeded the ACA daytime standard of 70 decibels. See Plaintiffs' Exhibit 30 at 2-4130. In Mr. Duel's judgment the noise levels in the Occoquan dormitories approach industrial standards used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Tr. at 457; see also Tr. at 36, 113; Plaintiffs' Exhibits 6 at 4; 50 at 17-18. Existing authorities indicate that sustained excessive noise levels increase stress levels and pose a significant risk to inmates' physical and mental health. Tr. at 458; Plaintiffs' Exhibit 31 at 83.

 Expert testimony revealed that the lighting is inadequate throughout the dormitories. Defendants' expert environmentalist, using the APHA 30-foot candle standard, found extensive deficiencies. Tr. at 1277-79; see also Plaintiffs' Exhibits 31 at 71-72; 48 at 38-39. Maintenance of adequate lighting minimizes the risk of accidents, is essential to the performance of work tasks, reading and recreational activities. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 31 at 71.

 General sanitation in the dormitories was found to be below acceptable environmental standards. Tr. at 35, 112, 1161-88, 1190-91. Occoquan dormitory windows are without screens resulting in a serious fly infestation problem, particularly in toilet and shower areas. Tr. at 463-64. This fly infestation is aggravated by a shortage of disinfectant that inmates can use to sanitize the toilet and shower areas. Tr. at 465.

 Inmates sleep on mattresses that are not cleaned or sanitized between users, nor are mattress covers supplied. Tr. at 459, 1260. This poses a public health danger whereby respiratory or enteric diseases can be transmitted to inmates who are required to sleep on such soiled mattresses. Tr. at 459, 515-16, 1132. Besides soiled, dirty mattresses, torn and damaged mattresses were also found in the dormitories. Tr. at 459-60. Torn mattresses can provide a harborage for disease carrying insects, such as mites, fleas, ticks, and lice. Tr. at 1130. There was testimony, however, indicating that the Department of Corrections is planning to procure new mattresses. Tr. at 1132; Plaintiffs' Exhibit 47.

 Three dormitories merit special attention. Dormitories J-1 and J-2 were warehouses that were converted hastily to inmate housing. Tr. at 30. According to Mr. David Decatur, the Administrator of Occoquan I and II, J-1 has a maximum capacity of 70 to 75 inmates and for J-2, 55 to 60 inmates. Tr. at 748-49. Nonetheless, J-2 has housed as many as 120 inmates. Tr. at 750. The poor ventilation in J-1 and J-2 is made all the worse by the acrid fumes of a nearby coal pile and the close quarters the inmates must share. Tr. at 40-42, 59-60, 64. Significant fly infestation was evidenced in J-2 by the pest strips that were solid black with an accumulation of flies. Tr. at 42.

 Conditions in Dormitory 5 are unacceptable for housing inmates, according to Mr. Frank Phillips, the former Administrator of Occoquan III. Tr. at 46, 840. Dormitory 5, located in the basement of the gymnasium, was also converted hastily from a warehouse to a housing unit. Tr. at 30, 50. Indeed, there was but one day between the decision to open it and its occupancy. Tr. at 839. Dormitory 5 houses 80 inmates, doubled-bunked, and has no day room. Tr. at 45-56. Dormitory 5 is clearly overcrowded, cramped, and poorly ventilated. Tr. at 48, 289, 1162, 1175.

 2. Food Service

 While both parties' environmental experts noted problems in the kitchen area, such as leaky steamers (Tr. at 420-21), refrigerator doors that did not close properly (Tr. at 419-20, 1101), and missing hood filters (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 48 at 8), neither expert felt that the conditions in the kitchen posed any imminent threat of harm to the inmates. Tr. at 499-500, 1116; but see Tr. at 1221. The Court, however, does not share defendants' view that all is well with the Occoquan food service.

 The APHA has established minimum space requirements for institutional food service facilities. Tr. at 434, 440. The APHA standards are accepted as a well-founded means for evaluating correctional facilities. Tr. at 1213-14.

 The APHA standards mandate seven to nine square feet of kitchen space per inmate, including storage, receiving, dishwashing, and toilet facilities. The kitchen measures approximately 4,875 square feet. This amount of space is adequate for a maximum of 696 inmates under the APHA standard.

 Further, the terms of the contract between defendants and the food service operator, Canteen Corporation, oblige the contractor to provide food for "1,400 residents three (3) meals per day" and to possess the "capability to increase [such] requirements by 200 residents within 30 days notice." Plaintiffs' Exhibit 31 at 3. The contract term is from July 14, 1986, to July 13, 1987. Id. at 1. The daily census figures for the Occoquan Facilities from September 15, 1986, through October 1, 1986, indicate that defendants were sending more inmates to the dining room than the food service operator was obligated to serve. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 9 at 9.

 The reality of inadequate kitchen space is evidenced by dry and cold food storage areas that are filled beyond capacity. Tr. at 435-37, 1219. As a result, cases of food and other materials are damaged, identifying food containers and cleaning these areas is extremely difficult, and, in the freezer units, food does not cool quickly enough to prevent the growth of bacteria. Tr. at 434-37, 1219; Plaintiffs' Exhibits 14i; 48 at 19-20.

 There was also credible testimony that there existed insufficient space in the refrigerated areas to thaw frozen meat in a safe manner. Tr. at 436-37. Thawing meat is defined as a potentially hazardous product by the Food and Drug Administration because if it is not kept sufficiently cool during the thawing process, it provides a medium for the growth of illness-causing organisms. The testimony of defendants' expert environmentalist, who happens to be employed by the District of Columbia government (Tr. at 1091-92), on the issue of properly thawing meat was, at best, confusing. Tr. 1218-19. Defendants' expert equivocated as to whether the food coolers were "overcrowded," but did admit that they were filled to capacity while maintaining that there was still room to thaw properly meats in cooler no. 2. Tr. at 1219.

 The testimony about missing window screens and broken freezer gaskets revealed the lack of any preventive maintenance and inspection program in the kitchen or in the housing units. Tr. at 469-71; 495-96, 1263. The absence of such programs has serious adverse health and safety implications that are only compounded by greater numbers of inmates using these facilities. Tr. at 1262-64.

 3. Classification

 Classification of inmates is essential for prison security. One critical function of classification is the efficient identification of violent, aggressive inmates and those in need of psychiatric care so that they can be separated from the rest of the population. See, e.g., Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 443 F. Supp. 956 (D. R.I. 1977). The classification system at Occoquan appears to be dangerously overtaxed by the crush of inmates in need of classification.

 Occoquan receives misdemeanants; convicted felons serving less than 10 years; convicted felons sentenced to more than 10 years who are awaiting evaluation by the reception and diagnostic center for transfer elsewhere; youths who are awaiting evaluation and study under the District of Columbia Youth Corrections Act; and youths who have been sentenced as youthful offenders who are awaiting placement at the Youth Center. In addition there are parole violators who are sent from the District of Columbia Jail ("D.C. Jail"). Tr. at 31, 741. There are 10 Classification and Parole ("C and P") officers assigned to Occoquan I and II, plus a chief C and P officer. At the time the population at the Occoquan Facilities was 1,750, these officers each had about 100 cases. Tr. at 72. Occoquan III has its own C and P staff.

 Due to the increasing inmate population and the reliance upon dormitories for housing all classifications of inmates, the Occoquan Facilities have been housing maximum security inmates in open bay dormitories together with general population inmates. Many of these inmates are being held at Occoquan until space becomes available at the D.C. Jail, the Maximum Security Facility, or the Central Facility (all of which are subject to court-ordered population lids). Tr. at 37, 751; Plaintiffs' Exhibit 6 at 1. As a matter of fact, among the inmates found responsible for the July 10, 1986, riot were 60 Maximum Security inmates who were backed up at Occoquan. Tr. at 38, 126.

 A properly functioning classification system is all the more essential in a medium security facility that utilizes dormitories for housing inmates. Tr. at 1194. The ACA standards discourage the use of dormitories in existing institutions, and dormitories are not permitted in new medium security institutions. Dormitory housing should be utilized, if at all, only for minimum security prisoners who have been classified for group living. Tr. at 49; Plaintiffs' Exhibit 30 at 2-4131.

 4. Programs

 Idleness among inmates results in a variety of problems, including heightened tension, frustration, and violence. Tr. at 748, 1173-74. The lack of adequate programs can also have an adverse impact on inmates' chances for parole. Tr. at 37, 39-40. There was no disagreement among the expert penologists that inmates should be engaged in some productive enterprise, properly supervised. Tr. at 93, 1171-72. Nonetheless, enforced idleness presents a major problem at Occoquan. Tr. at 37, 290, 394.

 Both parties agreed that Occoquan needs to develop a prison industries program and provide more space for programmed activities. Tr. at 743-44, 1192. The Court, however, is distressed to learn that defendants do not know what the plans are, if any exist, for the program building now under construction in the Occoquan courtyard. Tr. at 744.

 5. Inmate Supervision

 Correctional officers do not supervise properly the sleeping areas of the dormitories. Correctional officers do not make patrols on a frequent and regular basis, nor are officers stationed in the rear of each dormitory so as to facilitate supervision of the living area when inmates are present. Tr. at 80, 1163, 1167-68.

 Further hampering the correctional officers' ability to supervise the living areas of the dormitories, are the obstructed lines of sight existing in many of the dormitories in Occoquan I and II and in all the dormitories at Occoquan III. Tr. at 36, 1162. Double bunks, tall lockers, and the presence of inmates' clothing hanging from bunks and clotheslines combine to prevent the correctional officers from observing the activity in the dormitory. Plaintiffs' Exhibits 13(o), 13(q). Indeed, defendants' expert penologist recommended that double bunking be eliminated as it is not sound correctional practice. Tr. at 1162. The ACA standards prohibit the use of double bunks in dormitory housing. Tr. at 149; Plaintiffs' Exhibit 52 at 2-4131.

 Some inmates are allowed, in some instances, to exercise control and authority over other inmates. For example, some inmates are allowed to control access by other inmates to use of the telephone. Tr. at 394. Both parties' expert penologists concurred that inmates should not be permitted to exercise authority over their fellow inmates as it can lead to bribery, sexual favors, and violence. Tr. at 96, 1204-05.

 In the past year there have been at least 40 serious assaults at Occoquan I and II, including five with shanks and three with pipes. Tr. at 729; Defendants' Exhibit 60. These incidents involved serious physical injury. Tr. at 1177. Defendants' Exhibit 60, charting "assaults" from October 1985 to October 1986, does not include fights and other episodes of violence that are listed on incident reports, but not classified as "assaults." Tr. at 730. Thus, Defendants' Exhibit 60 does not include some episodes of violence that are listed in Plaintiffs' Exhibit 12, a summary of violent incidents abstracted from assault and incident reports. For example, the following incidents reported in Plaintiffs' Exhibit 12 are not included in Defendants' Exhibit 60: on January 3, 1986, an inmate was stabbed in ...


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