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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Brown v. Hutto PC-VA-0001
Docket / Court 81-0853-R ( E.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Disciplinary procedures
Education
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Grievance Procedures
Law library access
Library (non-law) access
Loss or damage to property
Mail
Personal injury
Phone
Recreation / Exercise
Religious programs / policies
Restraints : chemical
Restraints : physical
Search policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Strip search policy
Suicide prevention
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Virginia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description prisoners confined at the Mecklenburg Correctional Center (MCC) in Boydton, Virginia
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1983 - 1997
Case Closing Year 1997
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
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
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 ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Proposed Consent Decree (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Order (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Complaint 08/01/1981
PC-VA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Proposed Order 02/23/1982 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Amended and Supplemental Complaint 07/29/1982
PC-VA-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Order 10/25/1982 (692 F.2d 751)
PC-VA-0001-0023.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Settlement Agreement 04/08/1983
PC-VA-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Order 04/22/1983 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Order 08/02/1983 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Motion for Modification of Consent Decree 03/29/1985
PC-VA-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Entry of Modified Consent Decree 03/29/1985
PC-VA-0001-0022.pdf | Detail
Settlement Agreement 04/05/1985
PC-VA-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Order 04/05/1985 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0019.pdf | Detail
Order 04/07/1997 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0021.pdf | Detail
Judges Merhige, Robert Reynold Jr. (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0013 | PC-VA-0001-0021
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia)
PC-VA-0001-0001 | PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0004 | PC-VA-0001-0005 | PC-VA-0001-0007 | PC-VA-0001-0009 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0015 | PC-VA-0001-0017 | PC-VA-0001-0019 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Bronstein, Alvin J. (District of Columbia)
PC-VA-0001-0001 | PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0004 | PC-VA-0001-0005 | PC-VA-0001-0007 | PC-VA-0001-0009 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0015 | PC-VA-0001-0017 | PC-VA-0001-0019 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Hirschkop, Phillip J. (Virginia)
PC-VA-0001-0001 | PC-VA-0001-0007 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Vaid, Urvashi (District of Columbia)
PC-VA-0001-0022
Zerkin, Gerald T. (Virginia)
PC-VA-0001-0001 | PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0004 | PC-VA-0001-0005 | PC-VA-0001-0007 | PC-VA-0001-0009 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0015 | PC-VA-0001-0017 | PC-VA-0001-0019 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Defendant's Lawyers Gorman, Richard F. III (Virginia)
PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0004 | PC-VA-0001-0005 | PC-VA-0001-0009 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0015 | PC-VA-0001-0017 | PC-VA-0001-0019 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Miller, Burnett III (Virginia)
PC-VA-0001-0003 | PC-VA-0001-0004 | PC-VA-0001-0005 | PC-VA-0001-0009 | PC-VA-0001-0011 | PC-VA-0001-0015 | PC-VA-0001-0017 | PC-VA-0001-0019 | PC-VA-0001-0022
Other Lawyers None on record

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