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DOES v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

July 31, 1987

Twelve John Does, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
District Of Columbia Marion S. Barry, Jr., and Edwin Meese, Attorney General of the United States, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 Plaintiffs in this prison conditions litigation request the Court to enjoin the Attorney General of the United States from designating newly sentenced individuals to facilities operated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections ("DCDC") at the Lorton Correctional Complex until the Court determines that those facilities are "available, suitable and appropriate institutions" within the meaning of D.C. Code § 24-425 (1981). In consideration of the persistent and unacceptable overcrowding at DCDC's Lorton facilities, the Court will grant plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.

 I. Background

 The court has confronted in three separate lawsuits the prison conditions that prevail at the Lorton Correctional Complex. On April 28, 1982, the Court entered a Final Settlement and Consent Decree in Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 80-2136 ("No. 80-2136"); on March 23, 1984, the Court entered a similar Final Settlement and Consent Decree in John Doe v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 79-1726 ("No. 79-1726"); and on December 22, 1986, the Court entered an opinion and order in Inmates of Occoquan v. Marion Barry, 650 F. Supp. 619 ("No. 86-2128"). In each case the Court addressed extensively the conditions at the particular institutions and, inter alia, set inmate population limits.

 Central to the relief ordered in each case, was the imposition of inmate population limits. E.g., No. 79-1726, March 23, 1984, Consent Decree at 12-14; No. 80-2136, April 28, 1982, Consent Decree at 54 ("The elements of [the Consent Decree] rest fundamentally on the number of residents committed to the Central Facility."); No. 86-2128, 650 F. Supp. 619, 632-33 (D.D.C. 1986). In the intervening years, the Court has entertained countless motions from the parties, conducted hearings, and issued numerous orders and memoranda as it has struggled to bring prison conditions at Lorton up to constitutionally acceptable standards.

 The pace of events has accelerated considerably in recent months. Despite DCDC's efforts over the past 10 years to increase prison space and develop suitable alternatives to incarceration, more inmates enter the Lorton facilities each month than are released. See, e.g., Report of Specially Appointed Officer of the Court, filed July 20, 1987, in Civil Action Nos. 79-1726, 80-2136, 86-2128; Declaration of Hallem H. Williams, Jr. of April 17, 1987. Indicative of the mounting population pressure at the Lorton Complex, is the recent population increase at the Central Facility in violation of the April 28, 1982, Consent Decree in No. 80-2136. See July 13, 1987, Letter from Hallem H. Williams, Jr., Director, Department of Corrections, to Peter J. Nickles, Esq. Further, despite years of compliance with the population limits set forth in the Consent Decree in No. 80-2136, Director Williams indicated that the violation of the Consent Decree occurred because of the need to transfer inmates from seriously overcrowded Occoquan facilities to Central. Id. There is no indication that the Central population increase is temporary. Indeed, with continued innovative law enforcement efforts such as the laudable "Operation Clean-Sweep," and the other Court orders imposing population limits on the Maximum and Occoquan facilities, there is every reason to believe that the violation of the Consent Decree in No. 80-2136 will only become more severe.

 II. Discussion

 A. D.C. Code § 24-425 (1981)

 D.C. Code § 24-425 provides that prisoners convicted in the District of Columbia shall be committed "to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States . . ., who shall designate the places of confinement where the sentences of all such persons shall be served." The statute provides further that "the Attorney General may designate any available, suitable and appropriate institutions, whether maintained by the District of Columbia government, the federal government or otherwise, or whether within or without the District of Columbia." (Emphasis added). Plaintiffs assert that the Lorton facilities are no longer "available, suitable and appropriate institutions" by reason of the present population crisis, and thereby rely on D.C. Code § 24-425 in seeking to enjoin the Attorney General from designating any new prisoners to the Lorton facilities.

 Persuasive support for plaintiffs' assertion is found in the July 21, 1987, affidavit of Hallem H. Williams, Director of DCDC ("Williams Affidavit"). He states:

 
After personal inspection of the conditions of [various Lorton facilities] and consultation with the officials charged with the day-to-day operation of those institutions, it is my considered judgment as Director of [DCDC] that those institutions are not suitable or appropriate for the housing of additional prisoners and that they should not be available for that purpose.

 B. The Standard for Injunctive Relief

 In order to be entitled to injunctive relief, plaintiffs must demonstrate that (1) they are likely to prevail on the merits, (2) that they will suffer irreparable harm if injunctive relief is denied, (3) that the other parties will not suffer substantial injury if injunctive relief is granted, and (4) that the granting of injunctive relief is consistent with, or at least not contrary to, the public interest. Washington Metropolitan Transit Commission v. Holiday Tours, Inc., 182 U.S. App. D.C. 220, 559 F.2d 841, 843 (D.C. Cir. 1977); accord V irginia Petroleum Jobbers Ass'n v. FPC, 104 U.S. App. D.C. 106, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (D.C. Cir. 1958); see also Cuomo v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 772 F.2d 972, 974 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (Relief may be granted "with either a high ...


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