In 1982, prisoners incarcerated in the Auburn and Clinton Correctional Facilities filed two separate lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York against the New York Department of Correctional Services and prison officials. On January 14, 1983, the court ...
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In 1982, prisoners incarcerated in the Auburn and Clinton Correctional Facilities filed two separate lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York against the New York Department of Correctional Services and prison officials. On January 14, 1983, the court certified a class, which included all inmates of Auburn and Clinton Correctional Facilities. On May 10, 1983, the court formally consolidated the two cases, Dumont v. Couglin, No. 82 CV 1059, and Smith v. Coughlin, No. 82 CV 426. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Project, sought injunctive relief from alleged violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that their free speech and procedural due process rights were impaired by the Department of Correctional Services' censorship of prisoners' mail.
On October 12, 1983, the parties submitted a Stipulation for the Entry of Partial Final Judgment to the court. The Stipulation outlined specific practices for screening inmate mail to be adopted by Auburn and Clinton Correctional Facilities. Under the consent decree, prison security was ensured by prohibiting mail containing instructions about violence, escape, or anarchy, while prisoners' constitutional rights were protected by permitting inmates to receive mail that advocated alternative political beliefs. For instance, specific publications about socialism, religion, and sexual orientation (e.g., The Gay Community News) were authorized for delivery and procedures were established for appealing censorship decisions.
On December 5, 1983, the court (Judge Neal P. McCurn) ordered that class members be notified of the proposed settlement. Some prisoners raised objections at a hearing on February 13, 1984. On May 4, 1984, the court nonetheless approved the partial final judgment as a consent decree and ordered that class members be notified of the settlement and how to receive a full copy of the stipulations.
We have no additional information about this lawsuit, although the fact that the court approved a partial final judgment would seem to indicate that other issues were raised and, perhaps, litigated in these lawsuits.Kristen Sagar - 08/15/2007