Plaintiffs, a group of federal prisoners housed in a highly restrictive setting and represented by private counsel from the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance's Marion Prisoners' Rights Project, the ACLU and the New Hampshire Legal Assistance, sued federal Bureau of Prisons officials in 1974, filing their complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois. The complaint sought class action status for all present and future prisoners housed in the Marion Federal Penitentiary's Control Unit (CU). The complaint led to a bench trial before District Judge James Foreman. His subsequent April 19, 1978, order made numerous findings as to the plaintiffs' claims that the CU, as administered, violated their Fifth Amendment due process rights and their Eighth Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
Judge Foreman determined that the defendants' usage of the CU as a preventative measure did not violate plaintiffs' substantive due process rights but, when used as punishment, the lack of an adequate procedure to assess CU usage violated these rights. Used as a preventative measure, however, the CU did not violate the Eighth Amendment, as it was not punitive in purpose. The court did find that procedural due process protections were lacking and prescribed that the BOP provide the following: written notice to the prisoner of the claimed act(s) meriting the CU housing for preventive purposes; a personal hearing for the prisoner before an impartial decision-maker allowing for prisoner presentation of documents, witnesses and his explanation in opposition to CU placement; advising the prisoner of the information against him, if doing so can occur without harm to others (witness confrontation rights were not required, however); written, non-boilerplate reasons for a decision that CU placement is appropriate; a review process for the initial CU classification decision, as well as periodic reviews of whether CU housing remains warranted; and advice to prisoners of what they may do to achieve release from CU status. The judge found that cruel and unusual punishment was imposed by the CU program's use of closed-front "boxcar" cells in which prisoners were confined for all but a half-hour per day, without reading material, rehabilitative programs or other stimulus. He banned the BOP from continued, nonconsensual use of such cells and required the BOP to submit proposals to expand exercise opportunities. Judge Foreman rejected the claim that non-contact limits on visitation privileges violated the Eighth Amendment. Bono v. Saxbe, 450 F. Supp. 954 (E.D. IL. 1979).
Judge Forman's April ruling was followed by another order, reported as Bono v. Saxbe, 462 F. Supp. 146 (E.D. IL. 1978), which reviewed proposals for change that the defendant had submitted, the plaintiffs' objections to those proposals, and the defendant's request for reconsideration of a limitation imposed on the use of a prisoner's prior escape attempts when determining whether CU placement was warranted. Judge Foreman refused to require the decisionmaker on CU placement to be someone unconnected with the BOP. He reaffirmed his earlier ruling that an indefinite stay in the CU is constitutional, provided guidelines guide officials' discretion and, in an appendix, set out guidelines for CU referral and review. Regarding out-of-cell exercise, the court ruled that seven hours per week of such exercise was required and that limiting groups of prisoners to two for such exercise sufficed. The seven hours were to be calculated independently of any non-exercise time a prisoner spent outside his cell. Reconsidering, the judge accepted the defendant's argument that BOP officials may consider escape attempts when determining whether a prisoner should be assigned to the CU.
The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. On April 14, 1980, that court upheld much of the district court's rulings. Because the prisoners had only a limited liberty interest in remaining in the prison's general population, given their status as convicted prisoners, the appellate court agreed that only a rational basis (rather than a compelling state interest) need be shown by the government to justify CU placement. It found adequate the procedural protections ordered by the district court. The Seventh Circuit remanded the case for further review by the district court of whether a reasonable relationship existed between certain conditions of confinement (e.g., visual strip searches for prisoners following non-contact visits, poor cell lighting) and the stated need of institutional security. Bono v. Saxbe, 620 F.2d 609 (7th Cir. 1980) (Circuit Judge Richard D. Cudahy). Circuit Judge Harrington Wood, Jr., dissented in part, opining that the remand invited unwarranted meddling in prison administration. Id.
On remand, Judge Foreman considered the adequacy of lighting in the CU housing and the strip search practices preceding and following non-contact visits to CU-housed prisoners. Noting that he had actually visited the cells used for the CU, the judge's December 24, 1980, ruling found that the lighting issue was resolved by the defendant's offer to provide a 40, 60, or 100 watt light bulb to each CU resident, to meet their preference. Next, Judge Foreman ruled that the record made on remand justified the visual strip searches of inmates before and after non-contact visits. The record showed past discovery of contraband, opportunities for smuggling despite the non-contact nature of the visits, and limited ability by the BOP to monitor visits. In these circumstances, neither due process nor the Fourth Amendment were violated by the searches, according to the court. Bono v. Saxbe, 527 F.Supp. 1182 (S.D. Ill. 1980). (The name of the relevant judicial district had changed from "Eastern" to "Southern" following a 1979 realignment.)
We have no further information about this caseMike Fagan - 04/15/2008