In October 1986, inmates at the Suffolk County House of Correction at Deer Island brought a complaint in state court alleging that defendants had allowed Deer Island to deteriorate to the point that it could safely be used to house prisoners. Plaintiffs cited fire hazards; unsanitary conditions; inadequate ventilation, heating, and plumbing; overcrowding; inadequate recreation areas; and a general threat to safety as complaints in their Section 1983 action. Plaintiffs were represented by members of the ACLU.
There is no docket available for this case, and the only available document is a decision regarding attorney's costs and fees. Handy v. Penal Institutions Commissioner, 592 N.E.2d 1303 (Mass. 1992) All of the information regarding the case is summarized from that document.
In December 1986, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts referred the case to a master to consider the subject of fire safety. In April 1987, the parties entered into a partial settlement agreement, which the single justice approved, concerning fire safety-related issues. The defendants, among other things, agreed to close certain areas; to make certain repairs and improvements in the fire and smoke alarm systems; and to make repairs in the water distribution and electrical systems. The defendants agreed to pay the plaintiffs "interim attorneys fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988," and, if no agreement could be reached on the amount, the court would determine the amount of the fees and costs.
In March of 1988, the master issued a report on the prison's overcrowding. He concluded that double-celling of prisoners and deficiencies in certain buildings violated regulations of the Departments of Correction and Public Heath. The single justice adopted that report and referred the matter to the master for a report on remedies. In February 1989, following the filing of the master's final report on remedies for overcrowding, the single justice allowed the master's final report as to its factual findings and entered extensive orders designed to remedy problems of overcrowding.
A final settlement agreement was entered into by the parties in January of 1990, which was approved by a different single justice. That agreement addressed additional physical improvements and contained a promise to close Deer Island within six months of the opening of a new facility in the South Cove section of Boston.
A dispute arose regarding attorneys' fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (Chief Justice Liacos) awarded fees on September 17, 1991, and appeal was taken to the full court. After hearing argument on March 4, 1992, a panel consisting of Judges Wilkins, Nolan, Lynch, and O'Connor of the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision on June 5, 1992, holding that prisoners were entitled to recover fees and reduction of fees in the absence of contemporaneous records was not improper.Theresa Spaulding - 07/19/2005