On May 5, 1982, a group of adult prisoners confined by the State of South Carolina filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the South Carolina Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiffs, who were represented by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, claimed that the defendants had discriminated against them by refusing to offer them the same environment and opportunities that were offered to young inmates. Specifically, they claimed deficiencies in the areas of housing, health services, visitation, food service, education, and sanitation.
On December 7, 1984, the parties entered into a legal settlement, which culminated in a consent decree, which was submitted to the Court on February 1, 1985. The consent decree provided for changes in the areas of double-celling, sleeping space, use of temporary structures for housing, construction of new facilities, population limits, staffing, health services, programming, fire safety, disciplinary procedures, classification, visitation, physical restraints, food service, and environmental sanitation.
On February 7, 1985, the District Court (Judge C. Weston Houck) certified a class of present and future adult prisoners of the South Carolina Department of Corrections and on March 26, 1985, the Court preliminarily approved the consent decree.
On March 26, 1986, the District Court (Judge Houck) issued a final approval of the Consent Decree and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, retaining jurisdiction over the case for purposes of enforcement of the decree. Plyler v. Leeke, 1986 WL 84459 (D.S.C. Mar. 26, 1986).
In the spring of 1986, the prison system began to experience population increases at twice the expected rate, quickly making it very difficult for the defendants to comply with the consent decree's double-celling provisions. The District Court held a hearing on the issue in July, and the defendants asked the Court to modify the decree to allow the double-celling until a prisoner early release program (which had already been signed into law) became effective in early 1987. The District Court did not grant the modification, but instead ordered the defendants to reduce the number of non-conforming beds by 200 within 15 days, and to eliminate the remaining non-conforming beds by September 20. Both sides appealed.
On November 12, 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion in which it dismissed as moot the portion of the decree which had ordered the defendants to reduce the number of non-conforming beds by 200 within 15 days, and to eliminate the remaining non-conforming beds by September 20, noting that the defendants had fully complied with that order. The Fourth Circuit then affirmed the District Court's decision not to modify the decree. Plyler v. Leeke, 804 F.2d 1251 (4th Cir. 1986). The parties sought Supreme Court review, and on October 11, 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. Plyler v. Evatt, 488 U.S. 897 (1988).
The plaintiffs asked the Court to award them their attorneys' fees, and the District Court (Judge Houck) awarded them fees in the amount of $414,721.91, in addition to the $100,000.00 that they had already been paid. The defendants appealed, and on May 7, 1990, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's fee award. Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273 (4th Cir. 1990).
In early 1989, the parties filed cross-motions regarding the decree's space requirements for women inmates. In May 1989, the District Court granted the state temporary relief from compliance with the decree's provisions. After a hearing, on February 15, 1990, the District Court denied the defendants' motion for modification of the decree, requiring the state to place the Women's' Correctional Center in full compliance with the decree by April 2, 1990. The defendants appealed, and on February 12, 1991, the Fourth Circuit (Judge James Dickson Phillips, Jr.) vacated the District Court's decision, finding that the Court had erred in refusing to give any relief (even temporary) from the cell-space requirements at issue, even though the defendants had acted in good faith at all times and were only out of compliance with the decree because of factors beyond their effective control. Plyler v. Evatt, 924 F.2d 1321 (4th Cir. 1991).
On August 23, 1993, the parties entered into a compromise agreement to modify the consent decree in the areas of classification of inmates without parole and programming. This modification was adopted by the Court on October 6.
On May 1, 1995, the parties entered into a memorandum agreement to modify the decree, in which they agreed that the use of four-point-restraints would not be used to threaten the health of inmates, and that they would only be used if an inmate throws urine or feces at the correctional staff. The District Court adopted this modification of the decree on May 4, 1995.
On May 8, 1996, the defendants asked the District Court to terminate the consent decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. After a hearing, the District Court terminated the decree on June 4, 1996. The plaintiffs appealed and asked the District Court for a temporary stay of the termination order until the appeal was heard. On June 19, 1996, the District Court granted the stay until the appeal was decided. On November 14, 1996, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision to terminate the decree. Plyler v. Moore, 100 F.3d 365 (4th Cir. 1996). The plaintiffs sought Supreme Court review, and on June 16, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. Plyler v. Moore, 520 U.S. 1277 (1997). This case was officially closed on March 31, 1999.
In August, 2002, two of the plaintiffs asked the District Court for sanctions, but our PACER docket, which is accurate as of October 11, 2007, records no further activity in this case.Kristen Sagar - 10/11/2007