On October 31, 1980, Pat Canterino, an inmate of the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, filed class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, seeking injunctive relief against officials of the Kentucky Department of Corrections responsible for operations of the prison. Plaintiffs complained about unequal treatment and access by female inmates and about prison conditions.
On March 10, 1982, the U.S. Justice Department was granted leave to intervene as plaintiffs, and defendants sought reconsideration of that order. On March 26, 1982, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky (Judge Edward Huggins Johnstone), upheld the right of the U.S. government to intervene. Canterino v. Wilson, 538 F.Supp. 62 (W.D.Ky. 1982).
On July 26, 1982 the district court (Judge Johnstone), ruling on the merits, granted relief to the plaintiffs. Canterino v. Wilson, 546 F.Supp. 174 (W.D.Ky.1982). The court held that: (1) the "Levels System" that purported to be a system that rewarded and penalized women for prison infractions violated both equal protection and due process rights of women inmates by imposing restrictions on them in the exercise of privileges allowed male inmates; (2) disparities in opportunity for vocational education and training and jobs violated the equal protection clause and federal statutes under which funding was granted; (3) the equal protection clause required evenhanded allocation of facilities, benefits, and burdens between male and female inmates; (4) correction officials would be given an opportunity to adopt the same standards as to housing and overcrowding for female inmates as given to male inmates; (5) inmates failed to establish that medical and psychological care was so inadequate as to amount to a constitutional violation; (6) women inmates must be afforded same opportunities for recreational and outdoor activity as men; and (7) the same due process protections must be afforded to women inmates as to men in the disciplinary process and they must be allowed equal opportunities of access to court (appealed and affirmed infra). Pursuant to the order, the library was subsequently updated, its hours were extended to 15 a week, and the number of inmate legal assistants was increased from one to four.
A series of appeals followed. The defendants appealed the issue on attorney assistance, arguing that the female inmates were now receiving the same legal services as male inmates in Kentucky. Following a court-ordered compliance conference to resolve the post-trial motion for supplemental relief by defendant, the court (Judge Johnstone), denied the motion. Canterino v. Wilson, 562 F.Supp. 106 (W.D.Ky.1983). In so doing, Judge Johnstone made the following findings: (1) short and inconvenient law library hours available only to some inmates and only for 15 hours a week with the assistance of inexperienced inmate legal aides was insufficient to provide the inmates with access to the courts; (2) insufficiently trained inmate legal aides could not effectively perform the function of legal assistants; (3) services of a temporary attorney were justified at the women's prison because women did not have a history of self-help in the legal field, unlike men, and they had little access to adequate legal resources; (4) and the policy in the Kentucky prison system whereby all incident reports, except in cases of extraordinary occurrences, would issue only where corrections officers personally witnesses the incident.
In September of 1986, the State moved to alter or amend the order concerning the issue of access to courts. Among other orders, the State was required to provide the equivalent of a half-time attorney to assist inmates in areas of demonstrated need. In appealing the order to provide the part-time attorney, defendants proposed expanding the legal training program to equip inmates with legal training in lieu of hiring an attorney. Plaintiffs proposed that a half-time attorney be hired for 18 months. Judge Johnstone sided with the plaintiffs but also ordered inmate training and assistance in addition. Canterino v. Wilson, 644 F.Supp. 738 (W.D.Ky. 1986).
In 1989 the defendants appealed the order to hire a half-time attorney in addition to upgrading the prison library. They argued that while inmates must be provided with either a library or legal assistance, the State need not provide both. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Danny Julian Boggs) rejected the appeal, noting that because Judge Johnstone had had such extensive involvement in the case and such intimate understanding of the facts and issues that his decision was not to be second-guessed. Canterino v. Wilson, 875 F.2d 862, No. 86-6067, 1989 WL 40131 (6th Cir. April 10, 1989)(per curiam). The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in December 1989. Wilson v. Canterino U.S. 991 (1989).
The defendants also appealed the portion of the injunction barring enforcement of Kentucky Revised Statutes § 197.140, which listed six categories of high security-risk inmates in Kentucky prisons who were ineligible for work release programs because of security concerns. The order had found the defendants' implementation of § 197.140 to violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court had enjoined the enforcement of this classification system because it believed defendants were misusing it to erroneously presuppose certain inmates' higher security risk, which precluded them from participating in many community programs for which they would otherwise qualify. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit (Judge Boggs) concluded that plaintiffs were not being unfairly prejudiced because the language in the regulations contained no overly restrictive measures. He reversed the injunction and remanded the matter back to the District Court. Canterino v. Wilson, 869 F.2d 948 (6th Cir. 1989). There is no subsequent record from the District Court on that issue.
In concurrent procedural motions to the 1982 injunction suit, the plaintiffs joined as a defendant the Superintendent of Public Instruction, alleging that the Department of Education under the Superintendent discriminated against women in its operation of vocational education programs for the Department of Corrections. (That claim was severed in 1982 and decided on May 24, 1983. In that claim, Judge Johnstone found that: (1) the suit was not rendered moot relative to the Superintendent; (2) proof of the Superintendent's intent to discriminate was not necessary to establish liability; and (3) the Superintendent was proactive in promoting the discriminatory policies that excluded women from all vocational courses offered to male inmates. Canterino v. Barber, 564 F.Supp. 711 (W.D. Ky. 1983)). Rebecca Bloch - 02/15/2006