On November 14, 2003 Ohio inmates filed this class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Of Ohio, alleging that the conditions of confinement at the Mahoning County Justice Center ("Justice Center") and the Minimum Security Jail ("MSJ") violated their constitutional rights. The plaintiffs alleged that they were subjected severe overcrowding and corresponding deprivations. They sought equitable and declaratory relief.
On March 5, 2004, the District Court (Judge David D. Dowd Jr.) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. A bench trial was held on December 13-15, 2004. Following the trial, Judge Dowd issued his Memorandum, Opinion and Order, including Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. In a Summary Conclusion, the Court stated:
"The Court hereby declares that the plaintiff class has met its burden of proof with respect to its claims that class members (1) are being denied their constitutional rights not to be punished without due process of law and/or not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and (2) are being denied their constitutional right of access to the courts. As a result, the Court finds in favor of the plaintiff class and against the defendants."
The Court did not enter a final judgment and instead appointed Vincent Nathan to act as a Special Master pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(f)(1)(B) to assist the parties in a complex and lengthy remedial phase aimed at reaching a final resolution. The Special Master formed the Mahoning County Criminal Justice Working Group which, along with the Special Master, submitted reports and recommendations to the Court.
On June 8, 2006, Judge Dowd requested that Chief Judge Danny J. Boggs appoint a three-judge court for the purpose of considering whether there should be a prisoner release order to rectify the unconstitutional conditions which the Court found existed. The Chief Judge appointed Hon. Alice M. Batchelder, Hon. David D. Dowd Jr., and Hon. Dan Aaron Polster to act as the three-judge court.
By order dated August 2, 2006, the City of Youngstown was permitted to intervene as a matter of right to oppose the imposition of a prisoner release order.
The District Court appointed Special Master Nathan to serve as a court expert within the meaning of Fed.R.Evid. 706(a) for the express purpose of serving and filing an expert report collecting his findings relative to the question of whether crowding at the Jail is the cause of constitutional violations.
On May 17, 2007, the three-judge district court entered a consent decree, which addressed overpopulation problems, double celling, provision of bunk beds rather than mattresses on the floor for inmates, classification procedures, staffing issues, table space for inmates at mealtimes, access to legal aid, disciplinary procedures, facility maintenance issues, lockdowns, and recreation, as well as granted attorney fees to plaintiffs. The three-judge panel entered the decree; it included a population cap and was therefore beyond the authority of a single district judge. 2007 WL 1655505.
Before the decree's expiration date in 2010, the plaintiffs and the County moved the Court to extend the decree in order to prevent the City from continuing to detain nonviolent misdemeanants and overcrowd the facilities. On May 18, 2010, the Court denied these motions stating that there was no basis upon which to extend the decree, and finding that the defendants had taken all reasonable steps to comply - thus the decree ended on May 17, 2010. In June of 2010, the Court also denied plaintiffs' motion to hold the City in contempt after finding that the defendants had taken all reasonable steps to comply with the decree. 2010 WL 2598193.Kristen Sagar - 03/29/2009
Maurice Youkanna - 07/03/2014