In February 1978, seven pre-trial detainees at the Passaic County Jail in New Jersey filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against representatives of the county in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The plaintiffs, represented by the Office of Inmate Advocacy at the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by numerous conditions at the jail. On April 28, 1978, the Court certified a class consisting of all current and future inmates at the Passaic County Jail.
On May 31, 1978, the inmates filed an amended complaint, dividing their allegations into ten categories, including complaints of overcrowding, inadequate classification, unsanitary conditions, inadequate medical care, food, disciplinary procedures or exercise, and undue policies concerning telephone use, visitation and access to the courts. The complaint also alleged sex discrimination, complaining that women were not allowed to attend religious services at the chapel, and had far more limited access to the gym and sick call. They also complained of denial of newspapers and magazines. The complaint further alleged that the jail was racially segregated and that violent inmates were housed with non-violent ones, that inmates slept on dirty, vermin-infested mattresses, and that living spaced lacked proper heat, hot water or ventilation, and that toilets were located near and in view of other inmates and inmate eating areas.
In February 1979, the parties reported they had reached settlement on all but two issues: visiting practices and access to newspapers. On March 6, 1979, the parties settled the claim concerning inmate access to reading materials. The court approved the Stipulation of Agreement and Consent Order on April 10, 1979.
The Consent Order noted that many improvements had been made to the jail during the litigation, and also provided that defendants ensure the cleanliness of inmate living areas and food, that women be given equal access to all facilities and services, that disciplinary procedures be improved, and that inmates have access to law books, attorneys and toilet areas screened from outside viewing.
The only issue remaining for litigation concerned the Jail's visitation policies. On July 18, 1979, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Judge Herbert Jay Stern) held that the county jail procedures totally barring visitation by inmates' children were unconstitutional. Valentine v. Englehardt, 474 F.Supp. 294 (D.N.J 1979). The defendants asked the court for reconsideration, and on July 21, 1980, the court further held that the jail's ban on contact visits was constitutional because it banned such visits for security purposes rather than for purposes of punishment, and that consideration outweighed the benefits of such visitation to inmates. Valentine v. Englehardt, 492 F.Supp. 1039 (D.N.J. 1980). We have no further information on the proceedings in this case.Kristen Sagar - 10/07/2006