On September 25, 2000, prisoners confined at the Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel, Wisconsin, and the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin, filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin against those prisons. The plaintiffs, represented by court appointed counsel and the University of Wisconsin School of Law, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief, alleging that their various constitutional rights had been violated. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that there were constitutional violations at Supermax with respect to (a) conditions of confinement--in particular lighting, lack of sleep, physical conditions, visiting restrictions, monitoring, clothing, recreation, and harm, (b) inadequate medical treatment, including dental care, (c) privacy, (d) access to the courts (in particular mail and the legal room), (e) religion, and (f) various other concerns. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that there were constitutional violations at Waupun with respect to (a) disciplinary procedures, (b) inadequate medical treatment, (c) conditions of confinement--a lack of hygiene products as well as excessive cold and light, and visitors, and (d) access to the courts.
On September 25, 2000, the District Court (Judge Barbara B. Crabb) denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification and made various ruling on the plaintiffs' motions to proceed in forma pauperis. 2000 WL 34237510. Judge Crabb held that, since the plaintiffs were not represented by an attorney nor were they themselves attorneys, they could not adequately represent the interests of the class. Judge Crabb also held the plaintiffs joint and severally liable for the filing fee balance.
On August 14, 2001, the District Court (Judge Crabb), recognizing that the plaintiffs had acquired counsel, granted class certification for their claims with respect to medical needs and excessive use of force. 2001 WL 34379611.
On September 18, 2001, the District Court (Judge Crabb) denied the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Jones'El v. Berge, 172 F. Supp. 1128 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 18, 2001). On October 10, 2001, she granted a preliminary injunction to require defendants not to house mentally ill prisoners at Supermax and to evaluate all prisoners once, and denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to require an ongoing evaluation of all prisoners. 164 F.2d 1096.
Following the preliminary injunction, the parties negotiated a settlement agreement. On March 8, 2002, Judge Crabb held a fairness hearing and approved the agreement, finding the agreement "achieved a great deal" in ameliorating the most oppressive conditions and concluding that the settlement was "fair, reasonable, lawful and adequate as a resolution to this class action." The settlement agreement left it up to Judge Crabb to define "mental illness" and, after holding hearings on that issue, on June 24, 2002, Judge Crabb entered final judgment approving the agreement.
The settlement agreement restricted the defendants' ability to house mentally ill prisoners, and purported to guarantee all prisoners confined there at least the same rights and privileges of prisoners confined in segregation in other maximum security prisons in the state. Specifically, the defendants agreed to: (1) ease their practice of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation by limiting the time during which prisoners could remain in the highest level of security without cause, and set a strict limit on that time even where cause existed; (2) provide prisoners with (a) out-of-cell exercise, (b) cell shutters and dimming lights, (c) reading material, (d) expanded visitation, and (g) regular showers; (3) reduce the use of physical restraints; (4) increase prisoners' phone privileges; (5) build an outdoor recreational area; (6) regulate cell temperatures; (7) refrain from using certain stunning devices inside cells; and, (8) refrain from punishing prisoners by feeding them "nutri-loaf." A pro se appeal, and litigation with respect to counsel and filing fees, followed.
On September 18, 2002, Judge Crabb denied and stayed a number of motions. 2002 WL 32362655. The named plaintiff apparently had grown discontented with class counsel, but Judge Crabb denied the plaintiffs' motions to alter or amend the judgment, and for an order requiring counsel to turn over records. There was also some other subsequent litigation about individual class members and in forma pauperis status. 2002 WL 32356432, 2002 WL 32349786.
On December 31, 2002, Judge Crabb ordered counsel to draft and submit a proposed order appointing an independent expert to evaluate whether three prisoners at Boscobel could be moved to other prisons. 2002 WL 32341948. More minor orders followed. 2003 WL 23274551; 2003 WL 23198835; 2003 WL 23170805.
On June 20, 2003, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Daniel A. Manion, Illana Rovner, and Diane P. Wood) affirmed the District Court's June 24, 2002, approval of the settlement agreement. Jones'El v. Berge, 68 Fed. Appx. 738 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court held that the dissenting plaintiffs failed to show that the settlement agreement allowed clearly illegal or unconstitutional conduct to continue, and further held that approval of the settlement was not an abuse of discretion.
The District Court (Judge Crabb) issued several minor orders in Summer and Fall of 2003. 2003 WL 23269345, 2003 WL 23192664, 2003 WL 23100297, 2003 WL 23282609.
After a hearing, Judge Crabb ordered the defendants to air condition certain cells, and to provide plaintiffs' counsel and the monitors with a report on the construction progress of the recreation facility. Judge Crabb denied the plaintiffs' objection to the use of nutri-loaf and motion to replace the monitor. 2003 WL 23109724. She also denied the defendants' motion to stay the order pending appeal. 2004 WL 420157 (W.D. Wis. Feb. 26, 2004).
On July 2, 2004, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Michael S. Kanne) affirmed the District Court's November 26, 2003, enforcement order. Jones'El v. Berge, 374 F.3d 541 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court held that the District Court's order constituted a "fresh" injunction, rather than simply an interpretation of the consent decree, was an appealable interlocutory order, and that the order was not a grant of "prospective relief" subject to the requirements of the PLRA.
Due to confusion and arguments over certain provisions of the settlement agreement, on March 31, 2006 the Court ordered that the Defendants were to be enjoined from transferring general population prisoners into the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility until the parties negotiated an amended settlement agreement. Jones'El v. Schneiter, 2006 WL 897864 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 31, 2006).
On July 31, 2006, the Court concluded that the facts of the conditions of the prisons and the Defendants' compliance with the settlement agreement were highly contested, and stayed its decision for the parties to conduct further discovery.
On May 1, 2007 the Parties agreed to an amended consent decree in which new definitions of "mentally ill" were reached, and the Defendants agreed, among other things, that seriously mentally ill prisoners would no longer be sent to SMCI.
The Plaintiffs' attorneys and Judge Crabb then exchanged several letters about the progress of the monitoring. The final letter, dated June 12, 2008 sent by Judge Crabb, mentioned that the case was administratively closed.
The duration of the consent decree is unclear.Joshua Arocho - 07/11/2012