On August 9, 1994, a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The prisoner sued the state of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by private counsel, he claimed that the process by which an inmate is identified as a prison gang member or associate was unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment and lacked due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. He also claimed that the physical conditions of the Security Housing Units (SHU) and the psychological effects of long-term SHU confinement violated the Eighth Amendment. Finally, he challenged his own gang validation, claiming it was the result of retaliation by prison officials for his jailhouse lawyering.
In 1996, the prisoner filed a second lawsuit in the Northern District of California against the California Department of Corrections, docket no. 3:96-cv-00682-MJJ. The documents in that lawsuit are not available to the Clearinghouse, so we don't know what the prisoner was challenging. He then moved to consolidate that lawsuit with this one, which had come first. On June 4, 1996, Judge Claudia Wilken granted the prisoner's motion to consolidate the two cases.
From 1995 to 2000, the parties litigated several motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. On May 1, 2001, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment, which was granted in part and denied in part by the District Court (Judge Martin L. Jenkins) on June 19, 2002. The District Court granted summary judgment as to the Eighth Amendment claim regarding the physical conditions of the SHU, and denied it as to the First Amendment overbreadth and retaliation claims and the Eighth Amendment claim regarding the psychological effects of SHU confinement.
On January 5, 2004, the District Court (Judge Jenkins) partially granted another motion for summary judgment filed by defendants, finding no due process violation except to the extent that the prisoner was denied notice and an opportunity to be heard during the course of his initial validation. Further, the Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the remaining Eighth Amendment claim, finding no unconstitutional psychological effects of prolonged SHU confinement. The District Court again denied summary judgment with regard to the First Amendment overbreadth and retaliation claims.
The parties reached a settlement in 2004. The key result of the settlement was that a prisoner would not receive an indeterminate SHU term as a validated gang member or associate without first being found to be a current, active gang member or associate consistent with the procedural safeguards in the agreement, and that periodic reviews would be required to determine whether the prisoner remained an active gang member or associate. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to propose to codify the policy changes agreed upon in the California Code of Regulations and/or the Department Operations Manual (DOM).
Specifically, the settlement provided that, with regard to due process in validations and inactive reviews, the defendants would provide notice and the opportunity to be heard to every prisoner. To this end, the defendants agreed to provide 24-hour notice to each prisoner of the items being considered as part of the determination and to provide a written record of the prisoner's opinion of these items. Further, prison officials would be required to record an "articulable basis" that prisoners were engaging in criminal or unlawful acts on behalf of a prison gang and could not rely on confidential informants unless the informants detailed the exact nature of the prisoner's involvement, without the use of hearsay evidence. The settlement also included a "single source rule," where one gang-related incident could only count as one item of evidence even though it may be reported by multiple sources. Finally, the agreement provided that plaintiff's validation would be reviewed in accordance with the settlement.
After the settlement was filed with the District Court, the case was dismissed with prejudice on November 15, 2004. The Court retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement, however the plaintiff's counsel agreed to a set procedure for requesting future relief from the court. If the plaintiff's counsel believed that the defendants were not complying with the provisions of the settlement agreement to make policy changes, they would notify the defendants' counsel in writing, meet to discuss the issue, and only then could they ask the court for relief. This process would be unavailable once proposed changes to the policies described in the settlement agreement were internally finalized. No individual inmate can file for relief regarding an inmate's gang validation granted; individual inmate's concerns can only be raised by the plaintiff's counsel as examples of noncompliance. The defendants also agreed to pay $240,000 that would be divided up between the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attorneys as attorneys' fees and costs.
In 2005, inmates began sending letters to the Court reporting violations of the settlement agreement. Inmates sent letters in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012, but the Court has not responded to any of these letters or investigated the allegations. Samantha Kirby - 10/06/2014
Jessica Kincaid - 10/30/2015