In 1981, a prisoner at the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville (WVP) filed a habeas corpus petition against the Warden and Commissioner of the Department of Corrections (DOC) in the Circuit Court of Marshall County. Similar petitions by other WVP inmates were consolidated and the action proceeded as a class action. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, asked the court for habeas, declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that conditions of confinement violated state law and were unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.
After a trial in February 1982, the parties apparently negotiated a consent decree. On June 21, 1983, the Circuit Court (Judge Recht) issued an order detailing numerous deficiencies rendering conditions of confinement in DOC facilities unconstitutional, ordered DOC to submit a plan to remedy those various deficiencies and incorporated the consent decree as part of its order. Judge Recht subsequently resigned from the bench and was replaced by Special Judge John F. Bronson. On September 1, 1984, Judge Bronson approved DOC's compliance plan and the plaintiffs appealed.
On March 27, 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (Justice Thomas Miller) remanded the case. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 342 S.E.2d 422 (W. Va. 1986). The Court held that, while the compliance plan was adequate with regard to food service and facilities, DOC had to change provisions respecting medical services, access to the prison library, administrative segregation, and cell space.
The Circuit Court (Judge Bronson) subsequently appointed a nationally recognized penologist as a Special Master, leading to a dispute about whether the Supreme Court of Appeals or DOC would pay for the monitor. On May 29, 1987, the Supreme Court of Appeals (Justice Warren McGraw) decided that the DOC would pay. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 357 S.E.2d 778 (W. Va. 1987).
DOC further balked at a provision in the compliance plan that required construction of a new prison at Mount Olive. In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court of Appeals (Justice William T. Brotherton, Jr.) threatened the DOC with a receivership funded under a writ of mandamus, ordered DOC to submit architectural and financing plans for the new facility, and having received a positive status report, found the state was progressing as it should to complete construction by July 1, 1992. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 376 S.E.2d 140 (W. Va. 1988); Crain v. Bordenkircher, 382 S.E.2d 68 (W. Va. 1989); Crain v. Bordenkircher, 392 S.E.2d 227 (W. Va. 1990); Crain v. Bordenkircher, 408 S.E.2d 255 (W. Va. 1991).
On June 25, 1992, the Supreme Court of Appeals (Justice Richard Neely), acknowledging delays in construction and a need for the orderly transfer of inmates to the new facility, granted a writ modifying its closure order to allow DOC more time. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 420 S.E.2d 732 (W. Va. 1992); Crain v. Bordenkircher, 424 S.E.2d 751 (W. Va. 1992).
With respect to remaining disputes concerning various prison policies, on July 16, 1993, the Supreme Court of Appeals (per curiam) granted the defendants' motion to submit their remaining differences to the Special Master for arbitration; the Court further directed DOC to inform the Special Master as to its transition plan. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 433 S.E.2d 526 (W. Va. 1993). On May 20, 1994, the Supreme Court of Appeals (per curiam) adopted the Special Master's recommendations respecting inmate telephone and mail access. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 445 S.E.2d 730 (W. Va. 1994).
On July 14, 1994, the Supreme Court of Appeals (per curiam) again granted DOC more time to close WVP and transfer inmates to the new prison. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 447 S.E.2d 275 (W. Va. 1994).
After the Circuit Court (Judge John Madden) granted the plaintiffs' request for time cuts in the form of "credit on sentences[s]," the defendants appealed. On December 15, 1994, the Supreme Court of Appeals (Justice Margaret Workman) reversed and remanded. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 454 S.E.2d 108 (W. Va. 1994). The Court held that, since the Supreme Court of Appeals retained ultimate authority to effectuate a remedy for prison conditions that it had created, the trial court had no authority to grant "credit on sentence[s].
Having reviewed another status report on the delayed construction of the new prison, on December 21, 1994, the Supreme Court of Appeals (per curiam) held that the case would remain on the Court's docket until the old prison was closed. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 452 S.E.2d 732 (W. Va. 1994).
On March 24, 1995, the Supreme Court of Appeals (per curiam) recognized that WVP was being closed, the Mount Olive Correctional Complex was completed and that all inmates were being transferred; however, the Court held that the case would continue to remain on the Court's docket until completion and ordered all habeas petitions to be transferred to the county where the new facility was located. Crain v. Bordenkircher, 456 S.E.2d 206 (W. Va. 1995).
We have no more information on this file.Josh Altman - 06/20/2006