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RHEM v. MALCOLM

February 20, 1975

James RHEM et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Benjamin J. MALCOLM, Commissioner of Correction for the City of New York, et al., Defendants


Lasker, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LASKER

MEMORANDUM

LASKER, District Judge.

 On November 8, 1974, the Court of Appeals filed its opinion affirming our order of July 11, 1974 which was based on findings of unconstitutional conditions at the Manhattan House of Detention (the Tombs). The case was remanded for consideration of the relief to be granted.

 I.

 On November 15, 1974, the Commissioner of Correction advised this court that the City had decided not to remedy the unconstitutional conditions at the Tombs, but rather to close the institution and transfer its remaining 350-400 inmates to the House of Detention for Men at Rikers Island. The plaintiffs do not dispute the City's right to close the Tombs (its use actually discontinued on December 20, 1974). They claim, however, that except for matters inextricably related to the physical structure of the Tombs (such as the effect of excessive noise, heat and lack of ventilation, issues the plaintiffs now abandon) they are entitled to the same relief at the Rikers Island House of Detention for Men (HDM), where they are now held, as they would have been had they remained in custody at the Tombs.

 The City, on the other hand, takes the position that the decision of the Court of Appeals is limited in its effect to conditions at the Tombs, and that therefore this court has no power to grant relief to the plaintiffs now housed at HDM. This is an oversimplification of the case.

 In the opinion on which the order appealed from was based, we not only made findings of fact as to conditions at the Tombs, but determined the constitutional standards of protection to which detainees were entitled. These constitutional standards were specifically affirmed by the Court of Appeals which stated:

 
"The demands of equal protection of the laws and of due process prohibit depriving pre-trial detainees of the rights of other citizens to a greater extent than necessary to assure appearance at trial and the security of the jail; and the same constitutional provisions prevent unjustifiable confinement of detainees under worse conditions than convicted prisoners." 507 F.2d 333 referring to 371 F. Supp. at 623.

 These remain the standards by which the validity of plaintiffs' claims -- which now refer to conditions at HDM -- are to be judged.

 Moreover, the Court of Appeals affirmed our findings that:

 1. A system of classification could be feasibly established which would identify the distinct minority of detainees who needed to be held in maximum security.

 2. After the establishment of a classification system the needs of institutional security could be met without locking the large majority of detainees in their cells 16 hours a day.

 3. The large majority of detainees who need not be held in maximum security are entitled to "contact visits" rather than being required to communicate with their visitors by telephone in glass windowed booths.

 4. Visiting rights generally are unnecessarily limited and are far less than those accorded convicted felons.

 5. A 50-minute per week opportunity for exercise is inadequate. 507 F.2d 333 and 339. *fn1"

 The plaintiffs continue to press for relief as to the establishment of a classification system, limitation of lock-in, optional lock-out, adequate physical recreation, contact visits and other visiting conditions, disciplinary procedures and regulation of correspondence. In the earlier stages of this litigation (371 F. Supp. 594) the plaintiffs had prevailed on every one of these ...


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