In the late 1960's six inmates in the "awaiting trial" section of the Adult Correctional Institutions of Rhode Island (ACI) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The plaintiffs, represented in part by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated because they had been discriminated against due to their "awaiting trial" status. Specifically, they claimed that they were not eligible for rehabilitative programs and services until they pled guilty or were convicted, that their dining tables were unclean, that they were not given personal hygiene supplies, that visitation was severely restricted, and that their mail was censored.
On August 24, 1970, the District Court (Judge Raymond James Pettine) held that the censorship of the prisoners' mail in order to suppress any criticism of the institution or its officials served no rational social purpose supportive of prison objectives and violated the plaintiffs' First and Fourth Amendment rights. Palmigiano v. Travisono, 317 F.Supp. 776 (D.R.I. 1970).
On June 1, 1975, the plaintiffs filed a class action complaint in the District Court, alleging that they were not provided rehabilitative services and that the defendants discriminated against prisoners sentenced to life terms, women, prisoners in protective custody, prisoners sentenced to less than one year, and prisoners in the medium Security Facility. They also complained that they had been deprived of educational and vocational training, that the classification procedures were faulty, and that they had suffered from overcrowding, inadequate heat, inadequate ventilation, lack of sanitation, rodents, inadequate showers, lack of privacy, inadequate laundry facilities, physical assault and battery by other inmates, inadequate medical care, and the mishandling of the money that had been granted to the prison system to care for them.
On August 10, 1977, the District Court (Judge Pettine) held that the conditions at the prison constituted cruel and unusual punishment, that the medical treatment provided to them did not rise to the constitutional standard, and that the failure to properly classify inmates violated state law. The Court also held that pretrial detainees could be subjected only to such restraint as was necessary to assure their attendance at trial, warning the defendants that if they did not comply with the Court's orders, the Court would order the closing of all constitutionally deficient facilities. The Court also awarded the plaintiffs their attorneys' fees. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 443 F.Supp. 956 (D.R.I. 1977).
Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a motion to hold the defendants in civil contempt for failure to comply with the District Court's order requiring reclassification of prison inmates within a six-month period. On March 28, 1978, the District Court (Judge Pettine) held the defendants in contempt for their failure to comply with the Court's orders, and ordered that they must pay a fine of $1000 per day that they were late in reclassifying the prisoners. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 448 F.Supp. 659 (D.R.I. 1978).
In May of 1978, the plaintiffs asked the District Court to hold the defendants in civil contempt again for failing to bring the living conditions at the Maximum Security Facility up to the constitutional standard. On July 7, 1978, the District Court found that even though the defendants had not fully complied with its orders, they had "exerted efforts to alter deplorable conditions" and that they had made some key changes. Rather than levying fines for lack of compliance, the Court granted the defendants 30 more days to comply with its orders.
In order to fully comply with the Court's orders, the Governor of Rhode Island set aside the appropriate amount of money in the state's budget, but the Legislature refused to vote on the issue, instead submitting it as a bond referendum to the voters, who defeated it. After granting some additional time and a hearing, the District Court issued an order warning the defendants that there was no legal basis for further delay of compliance. The Legislature then came up with money to refurbish the prisons, and that money was matched by a LEAA grant.
The defendants appealed the original order by the District Court that granted the plaintiffs their attorneys' fees, and on March 3, 1980, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Judge Hugh Henry Bownes) affirmed the District Court's judgment, holding that the plaintiffs were entitled to an award of their attorneys' fees. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 616 F.2d 598 (1st Cir. 1980). The defendants sought Supreme Court review, and on October 6, 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari. Garrahy v. Palmigiano, 449 U.S. 839 (1980).
On November 19, 1980, the District Court ordered the defendants to close the old Maximum Security Facility when they finished moving into the new High Security Facility (Supermax). In 1984, the defendants asked the District Court to permit the use of the infirmary isolation cells at the Maximum Security Facility for short-term (less than 30 days) disciplinary purposes. On September 30, 1985, the District Court granted the request, provided that within 60 days the defendants submit to the court a written description of their plan for the use of the cells and a description of the steps taken to ensure that the earlier problems would not be repeated. The Court also granted the defendants another two months to complete their renovations at the old facility, which they planned to use to house prisoners.
The defendants asked the District Court to reconsider the 1977 Order holding the Rhode Island prison conditions unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Bell v. Wolfish and Rhodes v. Chapman (PC-OH-3). On May 12, 1986, the District Court (Judge Pettine) found that the present prison conditions still violated the Eighth Amendment and held that the Supreme Court decisions in question did not affect the validity of the 1977 Order holding them unconstitutional. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 639 F.Supp. 244 (D.R.I. 1986). Two weeks later, the defendants filed a motion to alter or amend that order, and on June 25, 1986, the District Court agreed to the following modifications: 1) the defendants could hold 268 inmates in Medium Security, and 2) as of July 1, 1986, the defendants could not house more than 250 inmates at the Intake Service Center, a number which was to decline by a specified amount for the next two years.
Due to an overwhelming influx of inmates following the Court's orders, the defendants were unable to maintain the necessary population levels, and the Court reconsidered its orders in light of their efforts to comply. On December 17, 1987, the Court recognized that the defendants had tried to comply with the Court's orders, but had been unable to do so due to circumstances outside their control. In light of their efforts, the Court agreed to temporarily lift the restrictions on double celling at the Intake Service Center (ISC), to allow a total inmate population of 336 at that facility. The Court ordered the defendants to make available extra beds at the Pinel Building (an annex to the ISC) within two weeks, at which time the ISC population would be reduced by the number of inmates that had been moved to Pinel.
On April 6, 1989, the District Court found that the defendants had failed to bring the facilities into compliance with the Court's standing orders governing the conditions of confinement of pretrial detainees, and therefore held them in civil contempt, fining them $50 per day for each person being held over the population limit. Palmigiano v. DiPrete, 710 F.Supp. 875 (D.R.I. 1989). The defendants appealed this decision, and on August 17, 1989, the First Circuit affirmed it without opinion. Palmigiano v. DiPrete, 887 F.2d 258 (1st Cir. 1989).
The plaintiffs again asked the District Court to hold the defendants in contempt of the population orders, and on May 18, 1990, the District Court found it necessary to issue immediate relief to alleviate the overcrowding, ordering that funds should be maintained to provide indigent detainees with bail, awarding prisoners 90 days of expedited good time, and awarding additional good time every 30 days until the conditions were less crowded. Palmigiano v. DiPrete, 737 F.Supp. 1257 (D.R.I. 1990).
On July 3, 1990, after taking a tour of the facilities in question, the District Court noted that it was still unsure that the facilities being used could hold additional inmates without backsliding into unconstitutional conditions, but due to the pressures of the growing prison population, the Court agreed to allow the defendants to hold additional prisoners. The Court ordered additional awards of good time to prisoners in the ISC and Pinel Annexes to bring the populations there back down to 380 and 134, respectively. The Court noted that this should not apply to prisoners charged with certain violent felonies like kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, and child abuse.
Unfortunately, these remedial measures did not have the desired effect of lowering the prison population, which continued to rise despite the release of a large number of offenders and pretrial detainees. On August 3, 1990, the District Court ordered the defendants to maintain at all times at least $200,000.00 in a fund to provide bail for all indigent detainees, and the Court raised the population caps on the facilities involved. The Court ordered the Special master to study the feasibility of ordering the release of pre-trial detainees held without bail, and ordered the defendants to accept for incarceration those convicted offenders who are free on personal recognizance or on bail until November 15, 1990. The Court further ordered the defendants to provide a medical screening of each prisoner within 7 days, to evaluate all tuberculosis tests within three days of the test, to employ staff whose primary duty would be to look for fires and fire hazards, to maintain fire detection and suppression equipment, to separate the beds in dormitories by at least 36 inches, to repair the ventilation system at the ISC, and to maintain proper sanitation and clean food service areas.
On March 18, 1994, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. Under the agreement, the defendants agreed not to house prisoners in areas not designed for housing prisoners (like corridors, hallways, dayrooms, offices, etc). The agreement restricted double-celling, mandated comprehensive classification procedures, and provided for recreation time, programming, medical and mental health care, sanitation, and regular monitoring of the defendants' compliance with the agreement. On July 15, 1994, the District Court issued an order approving the final settlement agreement.
On May 16, 1995, the settlement agreement was modified to allow a higher population limit at the Jonathan Arnold Facility for Women. On July 10, 1995, the parties entered into a stipulation of dismissal, and the District Court dismissed the case. On January 3, 1997, the parties again stipulated an agreement modifying the settlement agreement to allow higher population levels in some of the facilities housing women inmates, and on March 27, 1998, the parties stipulated an agreement to allow a 42-inmate increase in population at the Medium Security Facility.
We have a gap in the case at this point, but our PACER docket picks up on January 11, 2007. On June 27, 2007, the parties entered into another stipulation allowing a few additional inmates to be housed at the Women's Facility. On August 1, 2007 another stipulation order was entered. On September 4, 2007 an inmate filed a motion to intervene and change the August 1, 2007 Stipulation Order, which amended the 1994 settlement agreement and increased the capacity of the prison facilties from 922 to 1066. On September 12, 2007, Senior Judge Lagueux denied the inmate's motion to intervene in the class action, ruling that it was closed. Senior Judge Lagueux referred to his April 2007 opinion, 482 F.Supp.2d 207 (D.R.I. 2007), in which he had denied similar motions to intervene in the class action to object to amendments to the 1994 settlement agreement filed by fellow ACI inmates in 2006.
On September 24, 2007, an inmate filed a notice of appeal regarding the denial of his motion. On July 2, 2008, the First Circuit affirmed the denial, stating that "the [Class Action] is closed; thus, there is no pending case in which appellants can intervene.
On December 12, 2011, another Stipulation Order increased the capacity of the prison again to 1186. On February 19, 2014, Senior Judge Ronald R. Lagueux ordered the case closed finally and completely. He explained that the court receives frequent requests from inmates to reopen the case, but direct all future complaints concerning the overcrowding and prison inmate population to be directed to the State of Rhode Island's Criminal Justice Oversight Committee. This committee "was established by the Rhode Island State Legislature in 1993 for the specific purpose of enforcing the caps on the inmate population that were set forth in the 1994 Settlement Agreement." Kristen Sagar - 10/09/2007
Abigail DeHart - 11/07/2016