In 1983, death row inmates confined at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh filed a Section 1983 class action suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against officials of the Bureau of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ...
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In 1983, death row inmates confined at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh filed a Section 1983 class action suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against officials of the Bureau of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Plaintiffs challenged the conditions of their confinement under the Eighth Amendment, restrictions on their first amendment right to the free exercise of religion, and restrictions on their sixth amendment right to access to the courts.
Following eleven days of hearings, the District Court (Judge Joseph L. McGlynn) held that the conditions of confinement did not inflict cruel and unusual punishment; prison policy prohibiting religious activities that required congregation did not violate the First Amendment; and restrictions on access to the prison library did not violate right to access to the courts. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 661 F. Supp. 895 (E.D. Pa. 1987). Plaintiffs appealed.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.) affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs had failed to establish that the totality of conditions of their confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment, but also held that defendants' practice of only providing access to legal materials by request did not provide plaintiffs meaningful access to the courts. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 855 F.2d 1021 (3d Cir. 1988).
Following remand, the parties entered into negotiations and reached a settlement, which was approved by the court in November 1989. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 1989 WL 140489 (E.D. Pa. November 14, 1989). The settlement provided for the creation of a mini-law library in each Restricted Housing Unit, where death-sentenced individuals are housed, and allowed two class members to work together unless there is an "articulable security objection."
In 1991, an inmate moved to enforce the terms of the agreement claiming that he had been denied access to the law library while working with another inmate. The court denied the inmate's motion holding that inmates who are confined to disciplinary custody based on a breach of serious prison regulations constitute an "articulable security objection." Peterkin v. Jeffes, 1991 WL 137122 (E.D. Pa. October 26, 1991).
The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information ends with the most recent decision, dated July 19, 1991.Eoghan Keenan - 06/10/2005