On May 15, 1974, a pre-trial detainee at the Delaware County Prison (DCP) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania against the members of the Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors and the superintendent of the DCP. The class consisted of all ...
read more >
On May 15, 1974, a pre-trial detainee at the Delaware County Prison (DCP) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania against the members of the Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors and the superintendent of the DCP. The class consisted of all persons who had been, who were, or who would be pre-trial detainees held in the DCP. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief, alleging that the denial of contact visitation amounted to a deprivation of equal protection, due process, and associational rights, because the interest of the state in the confinement of pre-trial detainees was limited.
The detainees at DCP were denied contact visitation, which is a program that abandons the practice of separating inmates and visitors in favor of full personal access in a sort of visitors' lounge. After negotiation, the parties came to an agreement to allow contact visitation for pre-trial detainees and sentenced prisoners. The stipulation was memorialized on June 4, 1974. The agreement provided for nine and a half hours of contact visitation per week, and for the dismissal of the action.
On September 24, 1975, the defendants moved for modification of the stipulation to reduce the hours of contact visitation required, citing as a reason that the visitation privileges were creating administrative problems. On July 23, 1976, the motion was dismissed for want of case or controversy. The District Court reasoned that because the action had been dismissed there was no agreement to modify. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Judge Collins Jacques Seitz) reversed the District Court's decision, holding that the court had the power to consider the petition to modify the agreement to dismiss the suit. Williams v. Frey, 551 F.2d 932 (3d Cir. 1977).
Following the Third Circuit's opinion, the defendants again moved to vacate or modify the stipulation. The plaintiffs' also moved for a civil contempt remedy. On March 10, 1978, the District Court (Judge Edward R. Becker) denied both the plaintiffs' and the defendants' motion. McGoff v. Rapone, 78 F.R.D. 8 (D.Pa. 1978). In reference to the plaintiffs' motion, the court reasoned that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the damages they suffered were attributable to defendants' failure to implement the stipulated visiting schedule. Regarding the defendants' motion, the court found that the increased population of the contact visitation program, nor the risk of hostages, nor the danger of contraband, nor the decline in the remedial education program, nor the cost factors warranted the conclusion that extreme hardship would result if the stipulation were not modified.
The case does not appear to be ongoing.Kaitlin Corkran - 06/12/2006