In 1976, inmates of the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton filed a class action suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against prison officials. The inmates alleged various constitutional violations at the institution, including the policies regarding confidential inmate ...
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In 1976, inmates of the Indiana Reformatory at Pendleton filed a class action suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against prison officials. The inmates alleged various constitutional violations at the institution, including the policies regarding confidential inmate mail. In 1977, the District Court entered a consent decree and judgment directing the way the institution should handle inmate mail at all Indiana prisons. Bradberry v. Phend, No. IP 76-459-C, Consent Decree and Judgment (S.D. Ind. Mar. 21, 1977). This allowed for inmates to have private access to their confidential legal mail unless officials had reasonable grounds to believe that contraband was contained in the mail. If the mail were believed to contain contraband, it would be opened in the presence of officials and the inmate and then handed over to the inmate when it was determined to be free of illicit materials. In 1979, the Indiana legislature enacted a statute with almost identical language to the 1977 decree.
After the enactment of the statute, defendant Duckworth implemented a new policy at a facility not covered by the decree by which all confidential legal mail would be subjected to being opened by prison officials, albeit, in the presence of the recipient inmate. This policy withstood legal challenge under both the Constitution and the Indiana statute. McChristion v. Duckworth, 610 F. Supp. 791 (N.D. Ind. 1985).
In 1989, Duckworth became superintendent of the Indiana Reformatory. Notwithstanding the decree's contrary rule, in 1992, defendant implemented the same policy of opening mail that he had at his earlier post.
Plaintiff moved for an immediate hearing to enforce the 1977 decree, hold defendant and other prison officials in contempt, and other unnamed relief. The District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (Judge William Steckler) denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing, Bradberry v. Duckworth, No. IP 76-459-C, Entry denying Motion for Contempt Order and Other Relief at 2-3 (S.D. Ind. Oct. 27, 1992), on the theory that the decree could not, as a matter of law exceed constitutional requirements.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit (Judge Albert Engel) reversed and remanded the District Court's decision. The court held the state should have filed a motion for modification of the decree under Red. R.Civ.P. 60(b); it instructed the District Court to determine whether continued enforcement of the 1977 decree was necessary. Kindred v. Duckworth, 9 F.3d 638 (7th Cir. 1993). There is no further information on the outcome of this case.John Maksymonko - 08/08/2005