On May 26, 1988, inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Ohio Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The plaintiffs alleged that their constitutional rights had been violated by the prison's policy of double celling inmates on a racially segregated basis.
On June 11, 1992, the parties came to an agreement in the case, and they requested the court to enter it as a consent decree. On December 1, 1992, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Judge S. Arthur Spiegel) approved a consent decree in the case, finding it to be fair, adequate, and reasonable to address the constitutional problems at issue. The decree remedied the racial segregation by providing for random cell assignment. White v. Morris, 811 F.Supp. 341 (S.D.Ohio 1992).
On April 11, 1993, the worst prison riot in Ohio history, and one of the worst in the nation's history, erupted at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility. Nine inmates and one corrections officer were murdered and many others killed during the eleven-day standoff. During the standoff negotiations, as well as after the riot, the prisoners repeatedly cited integrated celling as a factor contributing to the tense atmosphere at the prison. As part of their agreement to end the siege, the prisoners demanded that the consent decree in this case be reviewed. The siege finally ended on April 21, 1993. After the riot ended, the prison again assigned cells on the basis of race, arguing that it was necessary due to racial tension and records that were destroyed during the crisis.
On May 24, 1993, the defendants asked the court to temporarily modify the consent decree. They asked the court to allowing the implementation of emergency procedures which would allow the prison to assign an inmate to a cell based on race if a written finding is made that the inmate harbors racial hostility that would not allow him to peacefully inhabit an integrated cell. The plaintiffs asked the court to deny the defendants' request for modification of the decree, arguing that the defendants had not followed proper procedures (spelled out in the consent decree) for altering the settlement, and that race-based cell assignment is unconstitutional.
On August 31, 1993, the district court (Judge Spiegel) granted the defendants' request to temporarily modify the decree, holding that the change was warranted in view of the intervening prison riot. The court ordered the defendants to reconstruct the destroyed prison records within six weeks, to file all written reports required by the consent decree within three months, and to fully reestablish implementation of the consent decree's random celling policy by January 1, 1994. The court further ordered the defendants to institute an intensive sensitivity training program for the correctional staff at the prison and to submit monthly reports to the court detailing the progress of this training. White v. Morris, 832 F.Supp. 1129 (S.D.Ohio 1993).
On June 22, 1994, the plaintiffs asked the court to award them attorneys' fees and expenses. On September 21, 1994, the district court (Judge Spiegel) granted the plaintiffs $21,690.00 in attorneys fees and $323.66 in expenses. White v. Morris, 863 F.Supp. 607 (S.D.Ohio 1994).
On October 23, 1996, the defendants asked the court to terminate the consent decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. On January 13, 1998, the district court (Judge Spiegel) granted the defendants' motion, terminated the consent decree, and closed the case.Kristen Sagar - 08/19/2007