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Case Name Reid v. Wetzel PC-PA-0045
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00176-JEJ ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
On January 25, 2018, five Pennsylvania prisoners who had been sentenced to death filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). Represented by the Abolitionist Law Center, the ACLU ... read more >
On January 25, 2018, five Pennsylvania prisoners who had been sentenced to death filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). Represented by the Abolitionist Law Center, the ACLU National Prison Project, and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief along with attorneys’ fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs challenged the DOC's practice of automatically placing all prisoners who were sentenced to death into solitary confinement merely because they had been sentenced to death and claimed that this violated their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

The plaintiffs alleged that conditions in solitary confinement meant that prisoners spent 22-24 hours a day inside an 8’-by-12’ cell. Unlike other prisoners, this placement in solitary was not triggered by violations of prison rules or a need for protective custody, and there was no procedure for prisoners to challenge placement in solitary. Nearly 80 percent of these prisoners had spent more than a decade in this form of solitary confinement.

The plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants from automatically placing all prisoners who had been sentenced to death in indefinite solitary confinement with no opportunity for review. The plaintiffs also sought a permanent injunction requiring the defendant to present a plan that provides for individual assessment of prisoners who had been sentenced to death based on a validated risk assessment.

The case was assigned to Judge John E. Jones III. On March 29, 2018, the plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to certify a class and appoint class counsel. The plaintiffs defined the proposed class as “all current and future death-sentenced prisoners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” On April 3, 2018, Judge Jones granted the unopposed motion.

The parties spent the next several months pursuing discovery. The defendants attempted to compel mental health examinations of the plaintiffs but ultimately withdrew the motions.

On November 18, 2019, the parties submitted a joint motion for settlement. The settlement provided that the department of corrections would still house prisoners who had been sentenced to death in specific prisons, but that they would offer to these prisoners rights and privileges offered to prisoners in other state facilities, including:
  • At least 42.5 hours out-of-cell activity every week, including yard and outdoor time, law library time, meal time, treatment or counseling meetings, religious worship, work assignment, and visitation;
  • Permission to use the phone on a daily basis for at least 15 minutes per usage;
  • Incarcerated people will not be subjected to strip-searches, shackling, or other restraints, unless security measures are required in response to a temporary, emergent situation;
  • Contact visits with family, lawyers, and religious advisors; and
  • Resocialization assistance for individuals psychologically damaged by long periods in solitary confinement to help them in the transition to living in a general population setting, as well and physical and mental health baseline evaluations due to years of neglect.
The agreement was set to last for 3 years, with provisions for shortening or lengthening the term by one year, based on compliance or noncompliance. The court was to maintain jurisdiction during that period, for enforcement of the agreement. The parties agreed the agreement was compliant with the Prison Litigation Reform Act's constraints on entry of enforceable relief, and that they would not seek to terminate the case except based on substantial compliance, for a period of four years.

The court preliminarily approved the settlement on November 20, 2019, and it directed the parties to distribute notice to class members by December 4.

The court received several objections to the interim settlement agreement after class notification and conducted a fairness hearing on March 16, 2020. Judge Jones issued a memorandum and final order approving the final settlement agreement on April 9, 2020, noting that most of the objections concerned implementation of the settlement rather than substantive or procedural aspects of it.

One class member filed a pro se motion to extend time to launch an appeal on May 18, 2020. The court accepted the motion, but no appeal has yet been filed. If no appeal is filed, the case will be considered closed.

Jake Parker - 05/25/2018
Elizabeth Helpling - 11/19/2019
Ellen Aldin - 05/20/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Law library access
Protective custody
Recreation / Exercise
Religious programs / policies
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Strip search policy
Torture
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description All current and future prisoners sentenced to death in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
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 2019 - 2022
Filed 01/25/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Reid v. Wetzel
https://www.aclu.org/
Date: Jan. 24, 2018
By: ACLU
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:18-cv-176 (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0045-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/20/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-PA-0045-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Class Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel [ECF# 29] (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0045-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [with Exhibits]
PC-PA-0045-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 144] (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0045-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Jones, John E. III (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0002 | PC-PA-0045-0004 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baylson, Mira (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Brown, Wilson M. III (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Fettig, Amy (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Gross, Barry (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Lin, Susan M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Morgan, Jamelia N. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Sholes, Desiree H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Taticchi, Mark (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0001 | PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Defendant's Lawyers DeFelice, Chase M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-9000
Fulginiti, Joseph (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-9000
Holmes, Timothy A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-0003 | PC-PA-0045-9000
Macus, Maria G (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-9000
Perez, Theron (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0045-9000

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