Inmates at the Mercer County Jail in West Virginia filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the West Virginia Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The inmates alleged that their rights had been violated by a totality of conditions at the jail. Specifically, the plaintiffs complained about deficiencies in the areas of overcrowding, plumbing, lighting, sanitation, fire safety, classification, disciplinary procedures, administrative segregation procedures, clothing allowances, toilet articles, exercise opportunities, medical care, dental care, nutrition, mail, telephone use, visitation, reading materials, rehabilitation programs, access to courts, and discrimination.
On November 5, 1980 and January 21, 1981, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (Judge John Thomas Copenhaver) granted temporary relief to the plaintiffs, ordering the defendants to effect a fifty-percent increase in the number of full-time jail deputies, and to provide visual surveillance of the segregated inmates at least once every ten minutes, psychiatric evaluation of segregated inmates, daily exercise for inmates segregated longer than thirty days, increased visitation privileges, and elimination of the drunk tank.
In January, 1981, Sheriff Earl Kendrick left his job, and Sheriff Donald Hare took office. The new sheriff made significant strides to comply with the court's temporary relief decrees. On August 10, 1981, the court (Judge Copenhaver) held that the conditions at the jail violated the inmates' constitutional rights. The court made permanent the formerly temporary orders of relief, and further ordered the defendants to file plans for correction of constitutional violations with the court by October 12, 1981. The court also enjoined the defendants from using the "dungeon" on the third floor of the jail to house prisoners. Dawson v. Kendrick, 527 F.Supp. 1252 (S.D.W.V. 1981). As we only have the district court opinion, we have no further information on this case. Kristen Sagar - 06/15/2007