This case, Harris v. City of Philadelphia, started 30 years of federal court litigation over the Philadelphia Prison System [PPS]. A similar state court action was initiated in 1971. See Jackson v. Hendricks, 764 A.2d 1139, 1141 (Pa.Commw.Ct. 2001) [JC-PA-10 of this collection].
In 1982, inmates at Holmesburg Prison filed a pro se class action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Of Pennsylvania alleging overcrowded conditions in the PPS in violation of their constitutional rights. The City moved to dismiss on res judicata grounds because of the state law litigation in Jackson v. Hendricks. [JC-PA-10]. The District Court granted defendant's motion and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed. Harris v. Pernsley, 755 F.2d 338 (3rd Cir. 1984). Following remand, a second amended complaint was filed which refined the plaintiff class to include all past, present, and future PPS inmates. The parties then proceeded with settlement discussions.
The District Court (Judge Norma L. Shapiro) approved a Consent Decree on December 30, 1986 (1986 Consent Decree). As part of the 1986 Decree, the City agreed to construct a downtown detention center by December 31, 1990 so as to alleviate overcrowding. The Decree provided population caps and a mechanism whereby certain non-violent offenders would be released to control inmate levels. It also provided for a "qualified admissions moratorium" which would be triggered if population levels exceeded the maximum allowable population. See Harris v. Pernsley, 654 F.Supp. 1042 (E.D.Pa. 1987).
On November 13, 1987, the District Court appointed a Special Master to assist in monitoring compliance with the Consent Decree.
By order of July 29, 1988 the City was directed to implement a house arrest/electronic monitoring program for selected inmates. The parties continued to struggle with overcrowding problems over the next several years.
On March 11, 1991, the District Court (Judge Norma L. Shapiro) approved a stipulation and settlement ("1991 Consent Decree") of the parties which revised and replaced in part certain provisions of the 1986 Decree. Harris v. Reeves, 761 F.Supp. 382 (E.D.Pa. 1991). Following entry of the 1991 Decree, numerous plans as required by the 1991 Consent Decree were submitted to the District Court for approval. Those included:
* Classification Plan (approved 10/27/92)
* Population Projections Plan (11/23/92)
* Operational Standards (12/9/92)
* Alternatives to Incarceration Plan (12/19/94)
* Physical Standards (7/11/95)
* Capital Projects Management Plan (6/2/97)
* Ten Year Plan (1/24/96)
* Training Plan (3/16/98)
Additionally, over 250 policies and procedures governing all aspects of PPS operation were implemented from 1994 to 1999.
On July 23, 1999 the plaintiffs filed a petition for contempt, alleging eight violations of the Consent Decrees and related orders. The District Court held hearings on plaintiffs' petition on October 7 and 8 (at PPS), 1999, November 12, 1999 and November 29, 1999. The District Court withheld ruling at the request of the parties so that settlement negotiations could continue. The parties the arrived at a proposed settlement agreement which would end the litigation and terminate the court's jurisdiction.
On July 27, 2000 the District Court held a fairness hearing and provisionally approved the settlement. Formal settlement approval came on August 30, 2000 and the District Court issued an order dismissing the case without prejudice. Harris v. Philadelphia, 2000 WL 1239948 (E.D.Pa. Aug. 30, 2000).
The appellate history of Harris is fairly complicated and is as follows: Harris v. Pernsley, 755 F.2d 338 (3d Cir.1985)[Harris I ], reheard en banc den., 758 F.2d 83 (1985); Harris v. Pennsylvania, 820 F.2d 592 (3d Cir.1987)[Harris II ]; reh en banc den., 1987; Harris v. Reeves, 946 F.2d 214 (3d Cir.1991)[Harris III ]; reh en banc den.1991; Harris v. Philadelphia, 35 F.3d 840 (3d Cir.1994)[Harris IV ]; Harris v. Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1311 (3d Cir.1995)[Harris V ]; Harris v. Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1333 (3d Cir.1995)[Harris VI ]; Harris v. Philadelphia, 47 F .3d 1342 (3d Cir.1995)[Harris VII ]; and Harris v. Philadelphia, 137 F.3d 209 (3d Cir.1998)[Harris VIII ].
Note that six years following the final settlement of Harris, another inmate lawsuit was initiated against the PPS. See Bowers v. City of Philadelphia, 2:06-cv-03229-RBS (E.D.Pa.) [JC-PA-20].Dan Dalton - 02/14/2007