On August 13, 1996, three women either currently or previously incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking money damages from individual federal corrections officers. On or around August 13, 1996, the plaintiffs also filed administrative claims against the United States under the Federal Torts Claim Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b) and 2671 et seq. The administrative claim was denied on July 25, 1997, and on October 1, 1997, the plaintiffs amended their Complaint to include claims against the United States and the prison officers in their official capacity. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought monetary damages for alleged sexual assaults, physical and sexual intimidation, verbal abuse, threats, sexual harassment, and invasions of privacy perpetrated or permitted by the Bureau of Prisons.
According to the plaintiffs, they had been temporarily housed at the Special Housing Unit at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Pleasanton, California in 1995, where they were inadequately separated from male inmates. There was so much contact between male and female inmates that male inmates had propositioned all of the women and one woman had been physically assaulted. Furthermore, corrections officers permitted male inmates to enter female inmates' cells in the middle of the night. All of the plaintiffs claimed to have been sexually assaulted and retaliated against for reporting the attacks. According to the plaintiffs, corrections officers also sexually harassed them, sometimes demanding sexual favors in return for basic necessities (e.g., prison-issued clothing).
On November 15, 1996, the parties agreed to mediate the lawsuit. The court (Chief Judge Thelton E. Henderson) appointed a neutral (Douglas R. Young) on November 27, 1996, and mediation began on December 16, 1996. The plaintiffs subsequently amended their complaint. On February 24, 1998, the parties signed a settlement agreement. The settlement negotiated was not a consent decree as defined by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and, therefore, was not judicially enforceable.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to take steps to minimize the risk of sexual abuse and assault of female inmates. First, the government agreed to cease placing female inmates at the Special Housing Unit at Pleasanton. Second, the government agreed to develop an implement a system to allow confidential reporting of sexual assaults. Third, the government agreed to develop and implement comprehensive training to address sexual assault, sexual interactions between inmates, sexual interactions between corrections officers and prisoners, sexual misconduct, and privacy issues particular to female inmates. The United States agreed to consult with an expert from the National Institute of Corrections (Andie Moss) when developing both orientation and refresher training. Fourth, the government agreed to financially compensate the plaintiffs for their own injuries. On March 23, 1998, the court dismissed all claims at the plaintiffs' request.
On April 14, 1999, the court awarded the plaintiffs attorneys' fees. Lucas v. White, 63 F. Supp. 2d 1046 (N.D. Cal. 1999). In doing so, the court rejected the defendants' arguments based on sovereign immunity, the definition of "prevailing party," the "substantial justification" of the United States' position in the litigation, and special circumstances making the award unjust. The United States appealed the court's ruling to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but that appeal was dismissed at the request of the appellant on March 20, 2000.
We have no information on the implementation or effects of the settlement agreement.Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/21/2006