On August 20, 1980, twelve inmates at the Central Facility of the District of Columbia Reformatory located in Lorton, Virginia, filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as money damages, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by a failure to protect inmates from actual and threatened physical violence inflicted on them by other inmates. They also claimed that the living conditions at the prison were unconstitutional, asserting that the prison had inadequacies in the areas of rehabilitative facilities, recreational facilities, classification procedures, overcrowding, lack of supervision, poor sanitation, wretched food, lack of a furlough program, lack of a work release program, drugs, and intoxication. They also claimed that inmates had unrestricted access to dangerous weapons.
About a year later, the parties entered into a consent decree, and on March 3, 1982, the District Court (Judge June Lazenby Green) ordered the defendants to notify all potential class members of the settlement terms. The consent decree, which was finalized and approved by the Court on April 28, 1982, provided for expansion of the jail to alleviate crowding, limits on double-celling of inmates, walk-through metal detectors to enhance security, hand frisking, an intercom system, perimeter surveillance, better lighting, increased staffing, improved classification procedures, improved sanitation (including plumbing, water, heating, ventilation, electricity, waste management, insect and rodent control, and clean mattresses), improved healthcare services, noise control, fire safety, safer food quality and preparation, improved programming and work options, a library, a school, record keeping, mental healthcare, and limits on the inmate population.
Later in the year, the plaintiffs asked the Court to find the defendants in non-compliance with the terms of the consent decree, and on December 20, 1982, the District Court (Judge Green) held that the defendants were still non-compliant in sever areas, including failure to install the metal detectors, reach sufficient staffing levels, re-work their classification procedures, expand the dormitory space, renovate dormitories, properly staff medical personnel, and provide rehabilitation and education to prisoners. The Court ordered that the defendants would be assessed $100 for each day of non-compliance with the provisions of the decree unless they fixed all these problems by a specified period of time for each problem.
On January 1, 1983, the parties entered into an amended consent decree in which the plaintiffs gave the defendants several more months in which to come into compliance with the terms of the decree, and the defendants agreed to pay a penalty of $250 per day for each day that they were late in complying with the terms of the decree.
The plaintiffs asked the Court to re-assess the maximum population levels for the facility, and on August 13, 1986, the Court (Judge Green) capped the prison dorm population at 1290 inmates. On May 20, 1987, Judge Green appointed John D. Fauntleroy to be the Special Master in this case and report to the District Court. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, No. 90-2136, 1987 WL 11422 (D.D.C. May 20, 1987).
On July 31, 1987, the District Court (Judge Green) held that the prison was so overcrowded that it was inappropriate for housing any additional prisoners, and therefore enjoined U.S. Attorney General Edwin A. Meese, III from sending any newly sentenced prisoners to the facility until the inmate population was back within the previously designated limits. The Court also imposed monetary sanctions against the defendants and held them in contempt. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 668 F.Supp. 20 (D.D.C. 1987). The defendants appealed, and on March 11, 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Judge Douglas Howard Ginsburg) reversed the injunction and remanded the case for reconsideration. The D.C. Circuit reasoned that since the District Court had previously dismissed the Attorney General from the lawsuit, they could not now reinstate him as a defendant in order to enjoin his behavior in this manner. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133 (D.C.Cir. 1988).
On remand, the defendants argued to the District Court that it was impossible for them to comply with the population cap and asked the Court to modify the decree. On August 1, 1988, the Court (Judge Green) ordered the defendants not to house any more prisoners at the prison and to reduce the inmate population by 150 persons each month until they were back in compliance with the population limits. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, No. 80-2136, 1988 WL 83163 (D.D.C. Aug. 1, 1988). The defendants appealed, and on August 26, 1988, the DC Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 855 F.2d 874 (D.C.Cir. 1988). On November 18, 1988, the DC Circuit (Judge Abner Joseph Mikva) further held that the population increase in the prison had been foreseeable, and that the defendants had failed to show any good faith effort to comply with the consent decree. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 861 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1988).
One year later, the plaintiffs asked the District Court to modify the consent decree and require the defendants to hire more staff than the original consent decree had required, arguing that it was necessary due to the fact that the failure of the dormitory intercom system and the addition of a new dormitory was a material change of circumstances and made extra staffing necessary. On November 7, 1989, the District Court (Judge Green) granted the motion and ordered the defendants to hire the appropriate number of staff.
On December 17, 1990, the District Court approved a modification to the consent decree that had been agreed upon by both sides to the lawsuit. The modification, which was designed to address the impact of the new Modular 200 Unit being constructed at the prison, set out the plans for the physical characteristics and size of the new building, the population limit, the manner in which the facility would be used, the correct number of staff members that needed to be hired, food service plans, medical service plans, mental health service plans, recreation plans for inmates, religious services, law library access, telephone use, and shower use.
Two years later, the parties entered into another consent decree, which the District Court adopted on June 10, 1992. Under this decree, the defendants agreed to pay monetary sanctions if they failed to maintain six full-time physicians, four full-time psychologists, two full-time master's degree social workers, and one full-time physiatrist to evaluate the care of handicapped inmates. The defendants also agreed to provide special diets according inmate medical needs, a working ambulance, a computerized pharmacy system, EMT training for ambulance staff, and sick call at control cells. Six members of the plaintiff class disagreed with this settlement because they felt that the defendants should have to pay contempt sanctions for their violations of the decree. Those six inmates asked the District Court to certify them as a sub-class but granted them a protective order to prevent retaliation against them. They filed an appeal. On July 1, 1997, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision not to certify them as a sub-class but repealed the protective order, finding that there was no showing that these inmates were in danger of retaliation. Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 117 F.3d 571 (D.C.Cir. 1997).
On July 26, 1996, the District Court ordered the defendants to hire a system-wide medical coordinator that had to be approved by the Court. On February 26, 1997, the Court adopted a consent order concerning environmental health and sanitation conditions, requiring the defendants to adopt new inspection and abatement procedures. The Court noted that all other parts of the original consent decree were still in effect and that it was not appropriate to terminate prospective relief at that time.
In November, 2001, the Central Facility was permanently closed, and all of the inmates were moved to other facilities under the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Due to this closure, the District Court issued a consent order on May 7, 2002, vacating the orders that had been issued and dismissing the case.Kristen Sagar - 09/27/2007