On February 8, 1985, six prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit (DSU) ("10 Block plaintiffs") sent a letter entitled "An Open Letter from Ten Block MCI Walpole" to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, describing the recent death of a fellow DSU inmate. The 10 Block plaintiffs alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the DSU, including inadequate access to exercise and other activities; the denial of medical treatment and of visits from family and attorneys; and the closing of outer steel doors of DSU cells. On Februrary 25, 1985, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that the letter be treated as a petition and referred the matter to Justice Paul J. Liacos for investigation and recommendation to the full court. The 10 Block plaintiffs eventually retained Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services (MCLS) as counsel.
On April 8, 1985, the Court ordered that MCLS staff attorneys and paralegals be permitted direct access to DSU inmates in order to determine whether any more of them required MCLS services. On June 20, 1985, the Court affirmed MCLS's visitation privileges, enjoining defendants from barring them from DOC facilities without court approval. The Court denied Defendant's motion to terminate these orders and Defendant appealed.
On June 21, 1985, the 10 Block plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to conditions in segregation units and procedures by which inmates are placed and held there. 397 Mass. 152. On March 20, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Wilkins) affirmed the single justice's ruling, holding that defendant's prior violation of a court order permitting paralegal visitation privileges justified single justice's denial of motion to vacate. Id. On December 23, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Master Linscott) granted the 10 Block plaintiffs motion for class certification.
On September 19, 1989, the Court (Justice Liacos) ordered that defendants promulgate new DSU regulations that comply with an specific minimum requirements regarding the process and standard of referral for transfer to DSU, as well as conditions within the DSU.
Even before all the above began place, one of the 10 Block Plaintiffs, Hoffer, had filed a §1983 suit in the Suffolk Superior Court of Massachusetts against the Massachusetts Commissioner of Corrections and the Superintendent of MCI, alleging violations of his state and federal due process rights. Specifically, Hoffer alleged that defendants illegally retained him in the DSU without setting a conditional release date or conditions of behavior. He sought sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. On March 3, 1992, the Suffolk Superior Court awarded plaintiff Hoffer monetary damages on his individual due process claim. Defendants appealed the amount of damages. The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the Appeals Court and consolidated it with the "Open Letter" case. On April 13, 1992, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Nolan) held that plaintiff Hoffer was entitled to more than nominal damages regarding his individual due process claim, but only for the days after the first 90 of his commitment.
The parties settled, and the Court issued its final judgment on December 28, 1993, ordering defendants to provide minimum procedures and substantive protections in compliance with DSU regulations provided to DSU officials, staff, and inmates. On September 26, 1995, the Court issued a post-judgment final order, enjoining defendants from repealing the DSU regulations. Timothy Shoffner - 05/01/2013