On or about 1979, juvenile detainees filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The plaintiffs, represented by Central Florida Legal Services, specifically alleged that the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center's policy of performing strip searches and cavity inspections several times a day violated their constitutional rights and that punishment was imposed arbitrarily. Punishment included taking away already limited privileges such as phone use and recreation time and being placed in isolation. Plaintiffs further alleged that intake procedures took excessive amounts of time leading to prolonged detention of children before it was clear why they were at the detention center, that food and sanitation problems plagued the detention center, and that there were fire safety and overcrowding problems. In addition, plaintiffs complained that the health care provided by the detention center, which consisted of a nurse visiting the facility one morning a week, was inadequate. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages.
On June 12, 1980 the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (Judge William Stafford) entered a stipulation and consent order that detailed changes that the detention center would have to implement. The center was ordered to allow privacy during attorney-client communication, improve intake procedures, improve communication between counselors and detention staff, contract with the Volusia County Health Department for nutritional consultative services and take steps to insure proper food storage, and continue to comply with the recommendations of the Fire Marshall.
On February 2, 1982, the court issued a partial consent judgment limiting the detention center's use of strip searches and cavity inspections. The court also ordered the center to continue improving recreational programming, to implement an appropriate classification system for detainees when making room assignments, to obtain janitorial services in order to maintain sanitary conditions, and to install benches in holding cells. Prior to the partial consent judgment, the center had already implemented improved educational and recreational programs for the children. The center also ceased contracting with "My House," a group tenement for adult alcoholics, for nonsecure detention. Instead, the center entered into a contract with "Youth Alternative" as an alternative to secure detention at the center.
In addition to claims sought by the class, one class member was permitted to intervene on the class action to pursue individual damage claims related to his isolation without notice or hearing, excessive length and conditions of isolation, unjustified and excessive force applied to him, and denial of medical care. District court findings revealed that the juvenile had been placed in isolation for seven days for laughing at the misdeeds of a fellow detainee and then objecting when that detainee was placed in isolation. The supervisor punished him by throwing him against the wall causing a shoulder injury for which he alleged he was denied medical care. Then he was stripped to his underwear, placed in a small concrete cell with a solid door, and not told how long he would be confined and was not given the opportunity to contest the punishment. His room contained only a metal bunk and a toilet, and he had no books or other ways to occupy himself. He had to eat all of his meals in his cell and was only allowed to leave once every other day to shower. Further, he could not flush his toilet from inside the cell and staff sometimes did not flush the toilet until several hours after he requested they do so. On one occasion, the workers got angry with the plaintiff for banging on the door, so they shackled one ankle and one wrist to his metal bunk and left him for six hours. The court (Judge Stafford) awarded nominal damages based on the claim that isolation without notice and a hearing and the conditions of isolation violated due process. However, the court found that medical care was not deliberately deprived and that the battery was not a constitutional violation.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Phyllis Kravitch) held that the battery and depravation of medical care did constitute a constitutional violation. H.C. v. Jarrard, 786 F.2d 1080 (11th Cir. 1986). The court also found that the juvenile was entitled to compensatory and punitive damages and remanded the case to the district court to determine the proper amount of damages for the battery and denial of medical care. There is no docket for this case available on PACER. Emilee Baker - 05/15/2006