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Case Name Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp PC-PA-0005
Docket / Court 70-3054 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On November 4, 1970, the Imprisoned Citizens Union, an unincorporated association composed of prisoners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of ... read more >
On November 4, 1970, the Imprisoned Citizens Union, an unincorporated association composed of prisoners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs, represented in part by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights by failing to furnish them with necessities for personal hygiene (like shampoo, deodorant, razor blades, razors, toothbrushes, and toothpaste), placing them in disciplinary solitary confinement for as long as seven years at a time without notice or a hearing, and failing to give them notice of the rules that govern their conduct in the prison or what punishments are to be imposed for infractions. They also complained of confinement in filthy, vermin-infested subterranean dungeons, lack of ventilation, lack of bedding, lack of adequate clothing, starvation diets, sack of sanitation, harassment and assault with weapons and chemicals, physical assaults by goon squads of custodial personnel, lack of a law library, cutting them off from communicating with news media, lack of exercise, invasion of privacy by reading and restricting their mail, refusing to allow them to read books, magazines, newspapers, instructional materials, and public documents, providing no light source within the cell, as well as lack of educational programs, rehabilitation, and vocational training. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants would transfer them for the malicious purposes of isolating them from their families and their attorneys, causing them to lose seniority in the inmate population's programming, and intimidating them to prevent them from exercising their constitutional rights. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants also provided inadequate medical care, arbitrarily and capriciously required them to ingest tranquilizing drugs like Thorazine, and punished plaintiffs who refused to take the medicine. They claimed that the ingestion of such drugs on a continual, daily basis caused permanent mental imbalance to members of the plaintiff class. They claimed that the defendants failed to provide prosthetic devices such as false teeth and eyeglasses to plaintiffs who required them. They claimed that the prisons were controlled by racist prison officials who deliberately instigated and provoked racial tensions, riots, and interracial violence by enforcing discriminatory and racist policies. Finally, they claimed that the defendants forced them to submit to arbitrary strip searches, vandalize their cells, and restrict their visitation privileges.

On December 20, 1977, the parties agreed and stipulated that the defendants would provide a law library with specified books for the defendant population.

Three similar cases (Owens v. Murdock, Ray v. Rundle, and Bracey v. Prasse) were consolidated with this case, and on April 8, 1976, the parties entered into a consent decree, which the District Court (Judge Joseph Simon Lord III) approved on May 22, 1978. Under the decree, the defendants agreed to promulgate an official code of conduct covering all aspects of institutional life relating to the conduct of residents and officials involved in the prison system. The code was to specify, among other things, the prison rules, the disciplinary system, levels of punishment, and a fair system of hearings. The decree also covered health care, mail, clothing, hygiene items, use of physical and chemical restraints (like mace), searches of the residents and their cells, visitation, lighting, toilets in each cell, running water in each cell, ventilation, transfers between prisons, clothing, and retaliation against prisoners who exercise their right to sue.

On June 7, 1978, the District Court (Judge Lord) settled the issues not covered under the consent decree, ruling that the conditions in the maximum security areas at Graterford, Dallas, and Muncy did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that the three cells at Huntingdon known as the "Glass Cage" were constitutionally unacceptable and ordered them closed. The Court further found that the prohibition against conjugal visitation at each of the state prisons did not offend the Constitution. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 451 F.Supp. 894 (E.D.Pa. 1978).

Rather than closing the "Glass Cage," the defendants alleged that the constitutional defects in those cells had been cured, and they asked the court to dissolve that part of the injunction. On November 20, 1978, the District Court (Judge Lord) held that because of physical and procedural improvements, the use of the cells no longer violated the Constitution, and the Court dissolved that part of the injunction. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 461 F.Supp. 522 (E.D.Pa. 1978).

The plaintiffs asked the Court to award them their attorneys' fees, and on June 18, 1979, the District Court (Judge Lord) held that the plaintiffs were entitled to have the defendants pay all of their fees. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 473 F.Supp. 1028 (E.D.Pa. 1979).

On June 30, 1982, the parties agreed and stipulated that they wanted the Court to dispose of any outstanding contempt claims that the plaintiffs had made against the defendants. In return, the defendants agreed to reorganize the Hearing Committee, replacing all current members and instituting new procedures that the plaintiffs considered to be fair. This stipulation was amended one month later, with minor changes to the makeup of the Hearing Committee and its procedures.

On July 30, 1982, the parties also agreed that the plaintiffs would not object to the defendants' standard cell check procedures, so long as the defendants would not use cell searches for the purpose of harassing inmates.

In the years following the adoption of the consent decree, the Court received a large number of inmate letters complaining that the decree was being repeatedly violated. The defendants asked the court to dismiss all allegations of contempt. The Court charged U.S. Magistrate Judge William F. Hall, Jr. with the duty to investigate the complaints to see whether they had merit. On May 4, 1983, Judge Hall submitted his report and recommendation to the District Court, recommending that the District Court grant the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaints. One week later, the District Court (Judge Lord) approved and adopted the Magistrate's recommendation.

On June 8, 1988, the District Court again awarded the plaintiffs their attorneys' fees, finding that the plaintiff attorneys had done an excellent job at representing their clients in this litigation. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, No. 70-3054, 1988 WL 59270, (E.D.Pa. Jun. 8, 1988).

In 1991, Donald Jones, a Pennsylvania inmate, attempted to bring a contempt claim against the defendants, but the District Court (Judge Fullam) dismissed the complaint for lack of venue, advising the plaintiff to re-file the complaint in one of the other district courts. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, No. 91-0217, 1991 WL 16720, (E.D.Pa. Feb. 5, 1991).

After a string of similar individual claims of contempt, the District Court (Judge Jan E. DuBois) held on December 9, 1996, that only allegations of institution or system-wide violations of the decree could be considered as the basis for contempt proceedings, and that the class counsel had to bring such allegations, rather than individual plaintiffs. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 977 F.Supp. 335 (E.D.Pa. 1996).

In 1998, the defendants asked the Court to terminate the consent decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that the PLRA was unconstitutional. On May 4, 1998, the District Court (Judge DuBois) held that the PLRA was constitutional and granted the request to terminate the decree. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 11 F.Supp.2d 586 (E.D.Pa. 1998). The plaintiffs appealed. On February 25, 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Judge Samuel Alito) affirmed the District Court's termination of the decree. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 169 F.3d 180 (3rd Cir. 1999).

Kristen Sagar - 10/04/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Crowding / caseload
Race discrimination
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Grievance Procedures
Informed consent/involuntary medication
Law library access
Library (non-law) access
Personal injury
Recreation / Exercise
Restraints : chemical
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Search policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Strip search policy
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description unincorporated association composed of prisoners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1978 - 1998
Case Closing Year 1999
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

71-1006 (E.D. Pa.) 01/14/2000
PC-PA-0005-9001 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
71-513 (E.D. Pa.) 01/14/2000
PC-PA-0005-9002 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
70-2545 (E.D. Pa.) 01/14/2000
PC-PA-0005-9003 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
70-3054 (E.D. Pa.) 01/05/2006
PC-PA-0005-9000 PDF | Detail
General Documents
Amended Complaint 05/08/1972
PC-PA-0005-0013 PDF | Detail
Stipulation 12/20/1977
PC-PA-0005-0001 PDF | Detail
Stipulation 05/15/1978
PC-PA-0005-0002 PDF | Detail
Order 05/22/1978 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0003 PDF | Detail
Order 05/22/1978 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0004 PDF | Detail
Consent Decree 05/22/1978 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0014 PDF | Detail
Opinion 06/07/1978 (451 F.Supp. 893) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0021 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 06/08/1978 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0005 PDF | Detail
Opinion 11/20/1978 (461 F.Supp. 522) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0016 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 06/18/1979 (473 F.Supp. 1017) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0020 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Stipulation for Dismissal of Outstanding Allegations of Contempt 07/30/1980
PC-PA-0005-0015 PDF | Detail
Amendment to Stipulation for Dismissal of Outstanding Allegations of Contempt 07/30/1982 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0006 PDF | Detail
Agreement 07/30/1982
PC-PA-0005-0007 PDF | Detail
Report & Recommendation 05/04/1983 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0008 PDF | Detail
Order 05/13/1983 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0009 PDF | Detail
Memorandum 05/13/1983 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0010 PDF | Detail
Memorandum 06/08/1988 (1988 WL 59270 / 1988 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 5181) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0023 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 02/05/1991 (1991 WL 16720 / 1991 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 1617) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0025 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 03/13/1992 (1992 WL 55746 / 1992 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 3083) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0024 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 12/09/1996 (977 F.Supp. 335) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0017 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order and Memorandum 06/26/1997 (1997 WL 381617 / 1997 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 9611) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0022 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 04/27/1998 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0011 PDF | Detail
Order 04/27/1998 (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0012 PDF | Detail
Memorandum 05/04/1998 (11 F.Supp.2d 586) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0018 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion of the Court 02/25/1999 (169 F.3d 178)
PC-PA-0005-0019 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (SCOTUS, Third Circuit)
Dalzell, Stewart R. (E.D. Pa.)
DuBois, Jan Ely (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0011 | PC-PA-0005-0012 | PC-PA-0005-0017 | PC-PA-0005-0018 | PC-PA-0005-0022 | PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Fullam, John Patrick (E.D. Pa.)
Hall, William F. (E.D. Pa.) [Magistrate]
Lord, Joseph Simon III (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0005-0001 | PC-PA-0005-0002 | PC-PA-0005-0003 | PC-PA-0005-0004 | PC-PA-0005-0005 | PC-PA-0005-0009 | PC-PA-0005-0010 | PC-PA-0005-0014 | PC-PA-0005-0016 | PC-PA-0005-0020 | PC-PA-0005-0021 | PC-PA-0005-0023
O'Neill, Thomas Newman Jr. (E.D. Pa.)
Scirica, Anthony Joseph (E.D. Pa., Third Circuit)
Sloviter, Dolores Korman (Third Circuit)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bradley, Raymond J. (Pennsylvania)
Cantor, Gilbert H. (Pennsylvania)
Fiebach, Robert H. (Pennsylvania)
Harvey, Thomas B. III (Pennsylvania)
Hirschkop, Phillip J. (Virginia)
Levine, Jack J. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0001 | PC-PA-0005-0013 | PC-PA-0005-0020 | PC-PA-0005-0021
Presser, Stefan (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0017 | PC-PA-0005-0018 | PC-PA-0005-0019 | PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Snavely, John T. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0002 | PC-PA-0005-0006 | PC-PA-0005-0007 | PC-PA-0005-0016 | PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Temin, Carolyn Engel (Pennsylvania)
Defendant's Lawyers Filipi, Francis R. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0006 | PC-PA-0005-0007 | PC-PA-0005-0017 | PC-PA-0005-0018 | PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Fisher, D. Michael (Pennsylvania)
Hart, Sarah Vandenbraak (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Kane, Robert P. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0002 | PC-PA-0005-0014
Knorr, John G. III (Pennsylvania)
Kostel, Mary E. (District of Columbia)
PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Lerner, Benjamin (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0001 | PC-PA-0005-0014 | PC-PA-0005-0021
Markowitz, Jeffrey S. (District of Columbia)
PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9001 | PC-PA-0005-9002 | PC-PA-0005-9003
Otto, Theodore G. III (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-9000 | PC-PA-0005-9002
Smyser, J. Andrew (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0016 | PC-PA-0005-0020
Sturgis, Sherree L. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0006 | PC-PA-0005-0007
Tufano, Paul A. (Pennsylvania)
Vandenbraak, Sarah B. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0005-0018 | PC-PA-0005-0019
Zimmerman, LeRoy S. (Pennsylvania)
Other Lawyers Herwig, Barbara L. (District of Columbia)
Loeb, Robert Mark (District of Columbia)
Stiles, Michael R. (Pennsylvania)

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