University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Garnes v. Taylor JC-DC-0011
Docket / Court 159-72 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
In January 1972, a female inmate at the federal correctional institution at Alderson, West Virginia, filed a class action lawsuit claiming sex discrimination and a constitutional denial of equal protection against the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the U.S. Attorney General. The ... read more >
In January 1972, a female inmate at the federal correctional institution at Alderson, West Virginia, filed a class action lawsuit claiming sex discrimination and a constitutional denial of equal protection against the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the U.S. Attorney General. The class action was on behalf of all women convicted of D.C. offenses serving time in federal prisons. The Plaintiffs alleged that D.C. women were serving more time than D.C. men with similar sentences and circumstances because the women were paroled later. The Plaintiffs asked that the transfer of D.C. women to federal facilities be halted and declared unconstitutional. Clarice Feinman and Claudine SchWeber, Criminal Justice Politics and Women: The Aftermath of Legally Mandated Change, Women & Politics Vol. 4 No. 3 (Fall 1984).

The problem occurred because D.C. had no facilities for women offenders serving more than one year, so the women were sent to federal institutions located outside of D.C. As a result, the women were seen by federal parole authorities, whose release guidelines were more rigid than those of the D.C. Parole Board. Clarice Feinman and Claudine SchWeber, Criminal Justice Politics and Women: The Aftermath of Legally Mandated Change, Women & Politics Vol. 4 No. 3 (Fall 1984).

According to the D.C. Circuit in Cosgrove v. Smith, 697 F.2d 1125 (D.C. Cir. 1983), on December 10, 1976, the Federal Bureau of Prisons entered a consent decree in this case approved by Judge William Bryant, stipulating that all female offenders sentenced in the District of Columbia would be paroled under local, rather than federal, standards, regardless of the site of incarceration or the type of offense, be it D.C. or U.S. Code. The female inmates were to remain in federal prisons but the women were allowed to personally request transfers to the D.C. Department of Corrections "nine months prior to their parole eligibility date." This was done to permit the D.C. women from federal institutions to be heard by their own parole board. The agreements was known as the Garnes Decree.

According to L. Steinitz, The Garnes Decree in Reality: Parole Eligibility and Determination for D.C. Women in Federal Correctional Institutions (1981), the Women Offenders Network (an organization sponsored by the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor) discovered in 1981 that the agreements made in Garnes were not being carried out because the D.C. Department of Corrections was not accepting transfer applications from women who had first met with the federal parole authorities and had received from them a presumptive parole date.

A hearing was held on H.R. 2050, a proposed bill to transfer parole authority to the D.C. parole board, and other bills before the Subcommittee on Judiciary and Education and the Committee on the District of Columbia House of Representatives. The bill did not pass, but on July 1, 1982, a new agreement was signed between the Federal Prison System and the D.C. Department of Corrections. The agreement was designed more precisely to carry out what Garnes had ordered. L. Steinitz, The Garnes Decree in Reality: Parole Eligibility and Determination for D.C. Women in Federal Correctional Institutions (1981).

Jessica Kincaid - 03/21/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action
Defendant(s) The District of Columbia Department of Correction
Plaintiff Description Female inmates from D.C. in the federal prison system
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1976
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  The Garnes Decree in Reality
By: Lucy Y. Steinitz
Citation: in Implementing Criminal Justice Policies (Merry Morash ed. 1982)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Hearing from meeting of Committee on the District of Columbia, Subcommittee on the Judiciary and Education 04/13/1987
JC-DC-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Judges None on record
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers None on record
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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