On June 22, 2005, attorneys for the local ACLU and the ACLU National Prison Project filed a class-action § 1983 lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on behalf of inmates confined in Unit 32 of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. The lawsuit alleged dangerous and inhumane conditions of confinement in Unit 32, a "supermax" facility operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). The plaintiffs immediately moved for class certification.
The MDOC was already operating under an injunction issued in Russell v. Johnson, PC-MS-0003
in this Clearinghouse, which concerned conditions of confinement and medical and mental health treatment for the subclass of death row prisoners confined to Unit 32. Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis, who oversaw the Russell case, urged the parties to discuss settlement. Following protracted negotiations, the parties reached a settlement of the issues in the form of a proposed consent decree. After a fairness hearing on April 28, 2006, Judge Davis formally approved the settlement.
The consent decree called for the MDOC to make many changes to the conditions of confinement for non-death row inmates of Unit 32, including compliance with the ACA Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions (4th Ed.) and with the essential National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) Standards for Health Services in Prison (2003).
Following the entry of the consent decree, the plaintiffs began monitoring the implementation process. Experts employed by the plaintiffs, Dr. John Robertson (medical expert) and Dr. Terry Kupers (mental health expert), conducted an audit of the medical and mental health services in Unit 32. The experts identified continuing deficiencies which they believed warranted urgent correction. The plaintiffs filed a motion for contempt on November 21, 2006, seeking an order to compel defendants to immediately comply with the medical and mental health care provisions of the consent decree.
On April 4, 2007, Judge Davis called the case for an evidentiary hearing on the plaintiffs' motion to compel. Before the hearing began, the State agreed to entry of a supplemental consent decree on medical care. The hearing went forward on the plaintiffs' contentions that mentally ill prisoners were still being denied basic psychiatric care and routinely subjected to excessive force and abuse. The hearing was adjourned and the parties were directed to discuss settlement of the remaining issues.
The case was reset for a settlement conference and continuation of the contempt hearing on November 15, 2007. Following that conference, the parties arrived at a supplemental consent decree on mental health care, use of force, and classification, which supplemented the original consent decree entered April 28, 2006 and the supplemental consent decree on medical care entered April 16, 2007. On November 15, 2007, the parties entered into another supplemental consent decree on mental health care, use of force, and classification.
On September 16, 2008, Judge Davis denied the plaintiffs' motions for discovery and attorneys' fees as moot.
On August 2, 2010, Judge Davis ordered the case dismissed without prejudice by agreement of the parties. The defendants agreed to close Unit 32, transfer the entire population of Unit 32 to other facilities over the course of the next several months, move all seriously mentally ill prisoners to MDOC's mental health facility in Meridian, MS and remedy the inadequate medical and mental health care in Unit 32 so long as any prisoners remain there. As part of the agreement, the ACLU would also monitor during the next year the medical and mental health care provided at all of the facilities in the state to which Unit 32 prisoners were transferred to ensure they meet constitutional requirements.
On November 12, 2010, Judge Davis denied one of the plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees upon being advised by the parties that the issue of attorneys' fees had been resolved. On January 14, 2011, Judge Davis issued a stipulated order awarding the plaintiffs $295,000 fees and expenses.
Disputes over attorneys' fees continued until January 13, 2012, when the parties settled but did not disclose the details of the settlement. Kristen Sagar - 03/23/2009
Jessica Kincaid - 07/15/2014