On February 23, 1977, inmates of state prisons in Lansing and Hutchinson, Kansas filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Kansas in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs, represented by the Washburn University School of Law Legal Clinic and Legal Services for Prisoners, alleged that prison overcrowding violated their constitutional rights. The prisoners claimed that double-celling, outdoor dormitories, the conditions of protective custody, the conditions of administrative segregation, and inadequate mental health care, endangered their health, safety, and welfare.
On May 15, 1980, the parties entered a consent decree, under which the State agreed to ask the American Correctional Association to accredit the Kansas State Penitentiary (later renamed the Lansing Correctional Facility) and to house inmates in individual cells or closely-supervised shared rooms. Once the Penitentiary was accredited, the plaintiffs would dismiss their complaint.
On January 26, 1988, the plaintiffs asked the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (Judge Richard D. Rogers) to modify and enforce the consent decree. On February 15, 1989, the court ordered the State to develop short- and long-term plans to address the prison's weakness in respect to mentally ill inmates, protective custody, and administrative segregation. On April 13, 1989, the court also compelled the State to strategically address overcrowding. One element of the State's long-term plan was the construction of the El Dorado Correctional Facility. On May 17, 1991, the court approved double-celling and population increases for some Kansas prisons, but not for others. Arney v. Finney, 766 F. Supp. 934 (D. Kan. 1991).
Once the El Dorado Correctional Facility was constructed, Kansas began relocating inmates from overcrowded facilities. The State limited the quantity of personal property including legal work that each prisoner could move. Because the court believed that the plaintiffs' claim was weak, the court refused to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining the prison to transfer all legal materials. Porter v. Finney, No. 77-3045-R, 1991 WL 284141 (D. Kan. Dec. 9, 1991).
On June 28, 1994, the court interpreted the State's long-term plan for improving administrative segregation to require that the State determine prison privileges for each segregated inmate individually. Porter v. Finney, 857 F. Supp. 65 (D. Kan. 1994). On December 19, 1995, the court tentatively approved the State's request to resume double-celling in accordance with standards promulgated by the American Correctional Association. Porter v. Graves, No. 77-3045-RDR, 1995 WL 775301 (D. Kan. Dec. 19, 1995). The court reasoned that consent decrees and court orders should be interpreted in the spirit they were intended, and that the intent was to force Kansas prisons to meet national standards for prison quality.
The court also ruled on a number of petitions addressed to intervener status and pleadings entered by unnamed plaintiffs. Porter v. Finney, No. 77-3045-R, 1991 WL 126724 (D. Kan. June 28, 1991), Arney v. Finney, 967 F.2d 418 (10th Cir. 1992), Porter v. Finney, No. 77-3045-R, 1991 WL 264514 (D. Kan. Nov. 4, 1991). We have no additional information on this case. Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/02/2006