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POWELL v. WARD

April 23, 1975

Elizabeth POWELL et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Benjamin WARD et al., Defendants


Stewart, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: STEWART

STEWART, District Judge:

This is a class action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enjoin the officials at New York's two state prisons for women from enforcing prison disciplinary procedures unless and until they comply with the guidelines set forth by the Supreme Court last term in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935 (1974). Plaintiffs, prisoners at the Bedford Hills and the Fishkill Correctional Facilities, seek inter alia, a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendant prison officials from holding Adjustment Committee disciplinary proceedings without certain procedural safeguards. Hearings on this motion were held before this Court last November and December, at which time testimony was heard from inmates and prison officials at Bedford Hills. Since those hearings took place prior to the amendment of plaintiffs' complaint to include the Fishkill facility, we limit our consideration of injunctive relief here to inmates at Bedford Hills. *fn1"

 For a preliminary injunction to be granted, irreparable harm to plaintiffs must be demonstrated. Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88, 94 S. Ct. 937, 39 L. Ed. 2d 166 (1974), quoting Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 506-07, 79 S. Ct. 948, 3 L. Ed. 2d 988 (1959). As the Second Circuit has stated:

 
[the] settled rule is that a preliminary injunction should issue only upon a clear showing of either (1) probable success on the merits and possible irreparable injury . . . .

 Sonesta Int'l Hotels Corp. v. Wellington Associates, 483 F.2d 247, 250 (2d Cir. 1973). We believe that injunctive relief is warranted, since we find that plaintiffs come within the ambit of the first test. Plaintiffs have made a clear showing of probable success on the merits; they will also be irreparably harmed in the absence of injunctive relief, since inmates who are placed in segregation without the procedural safeguards mandated by Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, may be wrongfully deprived of many basic rights and privileges which are granted to the general prison population.

 In Wolff v. McDonnell, decided June 26, 1974, the Supreme Court held that prisoners subject to disciplinary proceedings must be accorded the following rights: advance written notice of charges to be given at least 24 hours before a hearing, a written statement by the factfinders of the evidence relied on and the reasons for the disciplinary action, the right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence when doing so does not jeopardize institutional safety or correctional goals, and the right to counsel where the inmate is illiterate or where the issues are unusually complex. 418 U.S. at 563-67, 569-70, 94 S. Ct. 2963, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935. As Judge Brieant observed in a similar case involving disciplinary proceedings at Bedford Hills, "While Wolff is primarily concerned with disciplinary procedures relating to denial and revocation of good time credit, its holding applies with equal force to disciplinary procedures which may result in placement in solitary confinement." Crooks v. Warne, 74 Civ. 2351 (S.D.N.Y.1974). Slip Op. at 17. We agree that any disciplinary proceedings which may result in placement in solitary confinement must conform to the above-enumerated procedural requirements established by the Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell, supra.

 In New York, there are two basic types of disciplinary procedures, Superintendent's Proceedings and Adjustment Committee Proceedings. 7 N.Y.C.R.R. §§ 252, 253. The Adjustment Committee Proceeding is "said to be marked by flexibility and non-punitive intent in attempting to effectuate changes in inmate attitude," whereas the Superintendent's Proceeding is "solely disciplinary in nature." Crooks v. Warne, supra at 9. Despite different goals and procedures, both types of proceedings may result in solitary confinement. *fn2" In Crooks v. Warne, supra, Judge Brieant found that:

 
While there exist a variety of disciplinary procedures available in dealing with the more recalcitrant inmates, such as the Adjustment Committee and Superintendent's Proceedings, there exists only one facility euphemistically denominated "Special Housing" wherein all disciplined inmates are kept under the same conditions of punitive segregation, without regard to the diverse causes and commitment procedures whereby they may be placed there, or the nature of the misconduct involved.
 
According to Superintendent [Janice] Warne's testimony, all inmates requiring special custodial confinement are placed in Special Housing. . . . Among the inmates confined in Special Housing are those placed in "administrative" as well as "punitive" segregation, quarantined inmates and protective custody cases. The Superintendent admitted under cross-examination that no matter how admission to Special Housing was administratively denominated or how diverse were procedures for commitment thereto, there is no difference in the degree of punitiveness of the conditions of a person so confined. This is so whether commitment was by Adjustment Committee Proceedings or Superintendent's Proceedings. Inmates placed in Special Housing are all locked in 23 hours a day, whether committed for punitive, protective or administrative confinement. The rigors are the same.

 Id. at 5-6. On the basis of testimony about post- Wolff disciplinary proceedings by various Bedford Hills inmates and Superintendent Warne before this Court last November and December, we reaffirm these findings. It is clear that it is still the established practice at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to place inmates subject to Adjustment Committee Proceedings in the same Special Housing units used for punishing those disciplined under Superintendent's Proceedings. Consequently, since both Superintendent's Proceedings and Adjustment Committee Proceedings may result in placement in solitary confinement, inmates subject to either type of proceeding must be accorded the procedural safeguards set forth in Wolff v. McDonnell, supra.

 In this context, we consider the testimony presented by Bedford Hills inmates and prison officials regarding the Superintendent's Proceedings and Adjustment Committee Proceedings. Seven inmates described the disciplinary procedures they had undergone before both Adjustment Committees and Superintendent's Proceedings. Many of these inmates were placed in special housing for as long as four weeks by the Adjustment Committee "pending investigation" of charges of participating in a major disruptive incident or "riot" which occurred at Bedford Hills on August 29, 1974. The inmates testified that they were never given written notice of the charges against them prior to any Adjustment Committee Proceeding, and that they appeared before the Adjustment Committee weekly for a review of their confinement. These inmates further testified that they did not receive a written statement of the evidence relied upon by the Adjustment Committee or the reasons for the disciplinary action taken. Testimony demonstrated that this procedure was not peculiar to the August 29 disturbance. Inmate Cyndi Reid testified that she appeared before an Adjustment Committee in July 1974, at which time she did not receive a formal written notice of the charges against her, nor did she receive a written disposition of the findings of the Adjustment Committee and the evidence upon which it relied. Similarly, inmates Margaret Gatling and Diedra Plair testified that they appeared before the Adjustment Committee in late October and early November, two months after the disturbance. They too said they were not given written notice of the charges against them or a written disposition detailing the evidence relied upon and the Adjustment Committee's findings.

 Superintendent Warne confirmed in her testimony on cross-examination that written notice of the charges against an inmate are not given to the inmate before the Adjustment Committee Proceeding. Moreover, counsel for defendants conceded during the hearings that no written notice of charges is given to inmates before an Adjustment Committee Proceeding.

 The evidence adduced at the hearings in this action confirms the finding hy Judge Brieant that "[the] prisoner does not receive advance notice of the proceeding and is not given a written copy of the disposition of the charges." Crooks v. Warne, supra, at 8. It is thus clear that the defendants have failed to comply with two of the basic procedural requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell: they have failed to provide inmates facing Adjustment Committee Proceedings with written notice of the charges against them 24 hours before the proceeding, and they have failed to provide the inmates with a written statement of the dispositions of the Adjustment Committee, together with a statement of the evidence relied on and the reasons for any disciplinary action taken.

 We are thus constrained preliminarily to enjoin the defendants from utilizing Adjustment Committee Proceedings unless and until the inmates are provided with written notice of the charges against them at least 24 hours before a hearing, and unless and until the inmates are given a written statement by ...


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