University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name CRIPA Investigation of the Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York JC-NY-0066
Docket / Court No Court Case ( No Court )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On August 30, 2007 the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) notified the County of Westchester that it was opening an investigation into the conditions of the Westchester County Jail (“WCJ”) in Valhalla, New York , pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 ... read more >
On August 30, 2007 the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) notified the County of Westchester that it was opening an investigation into the conditions of the Westchester County Jail (“WCJ”) in Valhalla, New York , pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. On November 19, 2009, the DOJ sent it its Findings Letter to the WCJ. The letter stated that certain conditions at the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates. In particular, the WCJ failed to (1) provide inmates with adequate medical and mental health care and (2) adequately protect inmates from harm and serious risk of harm from excessive force by staff.

The WCJ has three divisions including a women’s unit, with an overall operating capacity of 1,693 beds. In February 2008, the DOJ--jointly, the Civil Rights Division in DC and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York--conducted inspections of the WCJ, interviewing inmates and various staff members. After reviewing videotapes, the DOJ found a pattern and practice of use of excessive force by staff members when responded to emergencies. Officers would use tactics of threat and aggression that tended to escalate rather than de-escalate a tense situation. Some particularly troubling incidents were not reported to the Special Investigations Unit, a unit responsible for investigating allegations of inappropriate or unlawful use of force. The DOJ found that many of these incidents were inadequately reviewed by the WCJ, thus leading to a pattern of use of excessive force against inmate—in 2007, only two such investigations of excessive force ever occurred, despite dozens of incidents that the DOJ found by reviewing videotapes.

The DOJ also found WCJ’s standards of medical care unconstitutional. The WCJ provided inadequate infection control, access to dental care, and an inadequate medical grievance process. As for mental health services, the DOJ found deficiencies in the area of forced medication and also found that the WCJ had inadequate mental health treatment and suicide prevention measures for juveniles housed in its facility.

In 2015, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced an agreement with Westchester County Jail resolving the investigation. The agreement requires that the Jail cease its practice of placing minors under 18 years old in isolation or punitive segregation, and that it develop systems to address disciplinary issues in a manner that is consistent with minors’ needs and that does not deprive them of access to certain programs and services. The agreement also requires the development and implementation of alternative approaches to discipline for 18-year-old inmates. Other provisions relate to avoiding excessive force and providing better medical and mental health care for both minors and adults.

Finally, the agreement mandates the appointment of an independent monitor to assist the County in achieving compliance with the provisions of the agreement, to make reports concerning the status and progress of compliance, and to provide the County with technical assistance to comply with the provisions of the agreement. The United States and the monitor will have full access to the Jail and its records, staff, and inmates for the life of the agreement. The agreement will terminate in three years if the United States agrees that the County is in substantial compliance with all provisions and has maintained substantial compliance with all provisions for 24 months.

Abigail DeHart - 05/16/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Monitor/Master
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Excessive force
Juveniles
Pepper/OC spray
Restraints : physical
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Skin Infections
Suicide prevention
Tuberculosis
Wound care
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) Westchester County
Plaintiff Description U.S. Department of Justice, enforcing the rights of inmates at the Westchester County Jail.
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 Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - 2018
Filing Year 2007
Case Ongoing Yes
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
Re: CRIPA Investigation of Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York
JC-NY-0066-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/19/2009
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Agreement With Westchester County Jail To Establish Corrective Measures And Appoint An Independent Monitor
JC-NY-0066-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/24/2015
Agreement Between the United States and the Westchester County Department of Corrections
JC-NY-0066-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/24/2015
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bharara, Preetinder S. (New York)
JC-NY-0066-0002
Gupta, Vanita (New York)
JC-NY-0066-0002
La Morte, Tara Marie (New York)
JC-NY-0066-0002 | JC-NY-0066-0003
Martin, Rebecca C. (New York)
JC-NY-0066-0002 | JC-NY-0066-0003
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0066-0001
Trainor, Cathleen (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0066-0002

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