On August 14, 1996, eleven inmates between the ages of 16 and 21 at Rikers Island filed a class action lawsuit in the District Court for the Southern District of New York under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 alleging that the New York City Department of Corrections, the New York City Board of Education, and the New York State Department of Education had not provided them with educational services they were entitled to under federal and state law. Plaintiffs were represented by the Prisoners' Rights Project of Legal Aid Society. The district court (Judge Constance B. Motley) granted plaintiffs' motion for declaratory judgment, finding the city liable for failure to provide adequate general and special educational services to the class. Handberry v. Thompson, 92 F.Supp.2d 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).
In April of 2000, the city submitted to the court its "Education Plan" and the court approved the plan on June 29, 2000 and appointed a monitor to observe the plan for one year. The monitor submitted her plan in December of 2001 and the district court concluded that the city failed to meet its obligations under federal and state law. Specific problems included inadequate procedures for informing inmates of their right to receive educational services, scheduling conflicts between educational services and other services, such as health, religious, and exercise activities, and lack of a procedure to determine whether an inmate had already completed a GED. The court (Judge Constance B. Motley) issued an Order Amending the City Defendants' Education Plan, outlining specific steps to be taken by the city. Handberry v. Thompson, 219 F.Supp.2d 525 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). (Appendix)
Defendants moved for a stay pending their appeal of the court's injunction. On November 27, 2002, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an order vacating the injunction and remanding the case for the district court to determine whether the plaintiffs were required to exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing the class action lawsuit. The district court concluded that no further exhaustion was required, and reinstated the earlier injunction on December 20, 2002. The City Defendants again appealed. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The Court of Appeals held that Section 802 of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1), limits the availability of prospective relief in prisoner litigation to that remedying violations of federal, but not state, law. Id. at 344-
he city moved to stay certain provisions of the Order and the district court (Judge Constance B. Motley) denied the motion on April 4, 2004. Handberry v. Thompson, No. 96 Civ. 6161(CBM), 2003 WL 1797850 (S.D.N.Y.). The case was reassigned to to Judge Deborah A. Batts on October 7, 2005 and on February 13 2007, she recused herself. The case was reassigned to Judge George B. Daniels on February 16, 2007, and then the case was assigned to the Magistrate Judge James C. Francis for general pretrial on October 2, 2013.
On June 10, 2014, the court appointed a special master to collect information and report to the Court with respect to the current status of provision of educational services at DOC facilities, pursuant to Rule 53(a)(1)(C). The court appointed Peter E. Leone, Ph.D., as Special Master on order to provide for a more efficient and reliable fact-finding process; the defendants objected but the court overruled. On December 2, 2015, following nine years of litigation, Magistrate Judge Francis filed a report and recommendation granting plaintiffs' motion in part for an amended injunction.
On December 31, 2016 Judge Daniels ordered various provisions relating to educational services, like that all eligible inmates be provided a minimum of 3 hours of educational services every school day, and that the DOC must provide special education services to those inmates identified as in need. The judge also recommended that special master Dr. Leone be appointed for a two-year term to monitor and ensure compliance by the DOC and DOE. The city objected, but the court overruled and adopted the magistrate’s recommendations in full on March 31, 2016. The case is closed but the period of injunction is ongoing. Angela Heverling - 01/30/2006
Abigail DeHart - 10/27/2016