University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name U.S. CRIPA investigation of Clark County Detention Center JC-NV-0004
Docket / Court docket unknown ( No Court )
State/Territory Nevada
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On December 4, 1997, the United States Department of Justice (the “Department”) informed Clark County, Nevada that it planned to investigate conditions at the Clark County Detention Center (the “Detention Center”) under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”), 42 U.S ... read more >
On December 4, 1997, the United States Department of Justice (the “Department”) informed Clark County, Nevada that it planned to investigate conditions at the Clark County Detention Center (the “Detention Center”) under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. In early 1998, the Department sent experts to assess conditions at the Detention Center. Based on the experts’ findings, the Department concluded that “conditions at the Detention Center violate the inmates’ federal constitutional rights.” The Department informed Clark County of its findings in a February 17, 1999 letter that identified four areas of concern.

First, the findings letter criticized the Detention Center’s “extremely crowded and unsanitary” holding and confinement cells, where new arrivals would be confined for several days. The investigators discovered detainees lying underneath benches due to an extreme lack of floor space, experienced noxious odors caused by overcrowding, found human excrement smeared on the walls of one holding cell, and documented a history of fights over what space was available. They also noted that officials were unable to adequately supervise detainees or provide adequate medical care in the overcrowded conditions.

Second, the Department identified gross deficiencies in the Detention Center’s suicide prevention and mental health services. The Detention Center’s nursing staff was inadequately trained to screen new arrivals for mental health problems and repeatedly failed to diagnose even easy-to-identify mental illnesses. The deficiencies extended to mental health treatment. Detainees who were placed on suicide watch were often restrained or isolated rather than treated, exacerbating their mental health problems. And several detainees on suicide watch were able to attempt suicide due to inadequate supervision. These problems allowed two suicides to take place in 1997 alone.

Third, the findings letter described several environmental health problems at the Detention Center:
  • The staff did not routinely perform fire drills, and fire safety equipment was inadequate.
  • The air pressure in the medical unit was too high relative to the air pressure outside, increasing the chance that pathogens would escape.
  • Due to overcrowding, many detainees were housed in rooms that lacked toilets, and the Detention Center’s policies made it difficult for detainees to access other toilets.
Fourth, the Department found that the Detention Center was not providing adequate medical care to prisoners in the general population at the time of its visit. But the findings letter noted that the Detention Center had reformed its sick call procedures to better manage doctors’ time, and the Department did not demand additional improvements.

The findings letter did, however, list a number of other remedial measures that would be required to bring the Detention Center to a minimal level of compliance. These included reducing the population in the booking area’s holding cells; increasing holding cell supervision; improving mental health services by providing additional training and hiring sufficient mental health staff; offering adequate mental health treatment; implementing suicide prevention measures; training officers to respond to emergencies; and providing all detainees with access to toilets.

While noting the possibility of a lawsuit, the findings letter expressed its hope to resolve the problems in a “cooperative spirit.” It does not appeal that a lawsuit was filed, and there is no evidence of a formal settlement agreement. A CRIPA spreadsheet, which the Clearinghouse obtained through a FOIA request, shows that the Department closed its investigation on June 27, 2002.

Timothy Leake - 08/03/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-area
Training
General
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Confidentiality
Failure to train
Fire safety
Recreation / Exercise
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Suicide prevention
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Tuberculosis
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) Clark County
Plaintiff Description United States Department of Justice Special Litigation Section
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Filing Year 1997
Case Closing Year 2002
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Findings Letter
JC-NV-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/1999
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Lee, Bill Lann (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-NV-0004-0001

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