On August 1, 1981, prisoners confined at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center (MCC) in Boydton, Virginia, filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Virginia Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the totality of conditions at the MCC fell "beneath the standards of human decency" and inflicted needless suffering in violation of their constitutional rights. Specifically, they complained of staff that were inadequately trained and unsupervised, lack of programming and activities, inadequate medical and psychiatric services, and a continuing atmosphere of violence, which they claimed led to inmates suffering injuries in physical confrontations with guards and use of excessive force.
On February 23, 1982, the District Court (Judge Robert Reynold Merhige, Jr.) found it unnecessary to resolve the plaintiffs' motions for a protective order and a preliminary injunction, noting that the parties claimed to have resolved those issues by mutual consent.
On April 8, 1983, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, under which the defendants agreed to form an Institutional Classification Committee for the purpose of classifying inmates when they entered the prison. The defendants also agreed to convert cell lights to a system that was internally controlled, to attach steel desks and stools inside the cells, to install window knobs on cell windows, to establish a written policy delineating when the toilets in the isolation units could be turned off (e.g. as a result of an inmate's deliberate flooding of the cell) and providing that no inmate shall be required to consume his meal in a cell with an unflushed toilet, to have psychological staff monitor inmates who were being controlled by physical restraints, to use such restraints only after consultation with a psychologist or doctor except in emergencies. The defendants also agreed not to establish a segregation section in death row, and to subject death row inmates only to ordinary disciplinary and security procedures. The settlement agreement also covered use of the telephones, visitation, outdoor recreation, food service, use of chemical restraints, disciplinary reporting procedures, grievance procedures, staff training and rotation, background checks for staff members, medical and psychiatric care, law library use, mail, newspapers, religious programming, search policies, educational opportunities, use of metal detectors, and access to a general reading library.
On April 22, 1983, the District Court found the settlement agreement to be a fair resolution of all issues between the parties except attorneys' fees, and therefore adopted the agreement as the order of the Court. The order became final on August 2, 1983.
On March 29, 1985, the parties jointly moved the court for an order modifying the consent decree, and on April 5, 1985, the parties entered into a new consent decree. Under the new decree, most of the resolutions in the original decree remained untouched, but the parties made some minor changes to the classification process. The Court adopted the new decree.
On April 7, 1997, the consent decree was vacated without opinion by the District Court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(2), and the case was closed.Kristen Sagar - 10/15/2007