In 1976, a lawsuit was filed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf of inmates who were incarcerated for failure to pay a fine, alleging that the City of Houston violated their due process rights because they had not been given the opportunity to show whether they could afford to pay the fines, they were not provided with lawyers, and they were not informed of their right to defer payment rather than face incarceration. The complaint further alleged that conditions at the Houston City Jail were unconstitutional. The inmates sought injunctive and declaratory relief. Specific details about proceedings early in the case are not available because we only found a digital copy of the paper form of the docket, and we do not have access to the orders and pleadings that were filed.
In 1979, the Court (Judge Sim Lake) certified a class and allowed the litigation to proceed as a class action. Another case, filed in 1980, was consolidated into this case.
On September 25, 1989, the parties entered into a consent decree, which established procedures for medical care, food service, provision of a pharmacy, 24-hour medical intake, 24-hour medical call, and training for health workers. It also provided for the closure of the Municipal Prison Farm, the implementation of capital improvements for the construction of police command stations and lock-up facilities. The consent decree required the City to pay $41,933.04 in attorney fees as well.
In October 1994, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce provisions of the decree relating to portions of the medical policies, specifically complaining of the failure to implement 24-hour medical intake, failure to provide certain medical screenings, and the provision of on-call pharmacists. In 1996, the parties agreed to an order for the enforcement of the consent decree provisions, and for the provision of attorney fees and court costs in the amount of $12,747.89 to the plaintiffs (for a combined total of $54,680.93 when combined with previous attorney fees paid by the City).
On February 8, 2011, the plaintiffs alleged that the City still had periods of overcrowding, which resulted increased the likelihood of violence among inmates and between inmates and staff. However, because the City has substantially complied with almost all provisions of the consent decree, and has been able to reduce crowding since the status conference, the Court granted defendant's motion to terminate the consent decree on August 1, 2013.Denise Lieberman - 11/14/2005
Maurice Youkanna - 07/08/2014