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LASKY v. QUINLAN

June 21, 1976

Raymond G. LASKY et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Sheriff Lawrence QUINLAN et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WERKER

WERKER, District Judge.

 This action was commenced against the Dutchess County Sheriff, the Head Jailer and other Jailers alleging violations of various constitutional rights as well as a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Only injunctive relief was sought. The Honorable Murray I. Gurfein, then United States District Judge, now Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to whom this case was assigned held a hearing with respect to the allegations in the complaint on July 2, 5 and 6, 1973. Thereafter, at the suggestion of Judge Gurfein, counsel for the plaintiffs and counsel for the defendant Sheriff got together and entered into a stipulation dated July 25, 1973 with respect to the improvements needed in the jail which the defendant Sheriff agreed to implement. Judge Gurfein on July 30, 1973, entered an opinion and order approving the stipulation which had been entered into between counsel for the respective parties. He stated in that opinion, "The action is dismissed upon the stipulation being filed, subject to reopening or the institution of contempt proceedings in the event of a wilful failure to comply with the aforementioned order of the court."

 On December 8, 1975, counsel for the plaintiffs moved to hold the Sheriff in contempt on grounds involving the non-compliance with the stipulation and the order of Judge Gurfein and this matter was reopened. A hearing with respect to the allegations made in the motion to hold the Sheriff in contempt was held on February 3, 4, 5 and 6, 1976 at Poughkeepsie, New York.

 As required by Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon the testimony given and the documentary evidence received at that hearing.

 In the 29 months following the entry of Judge Gurfein's order plaintiffs' counsel repeatedly requested the Sheriff and his counsel to provide him with evidence showing compliance with the stipulation and order.

 The Sheriff and his counsel were notified that failure to comply with the terms of the stipulation would result in a motion to find the Sheriff in contempt.

 No application throughout the period was made to this court to relieve the Sheriff of any obligations assumed under the stipulation and order or to clarify the same.

 1. Classification of Inmates

 The stipulation required that persons detained for trial or examination should not be kept in the same room as convicts under sentence. It also required that minors be separated from adults. I find that the Sheriff has failed to make the necessary classification of inmates; indeed upon the hearing, the court was required to direct the Sheriff to remove from the Dutchess County Jail such inmates who were not within classification.

 There was considerable testimony that unsentenced inmates were often housed with those who had already been sentenced. On January 13-16, 1976, at a time when the jail population was low enough to permit proper classification, Mr. Swiderik, a senior investigator for the New York State Commission of Correction found five violations of the classification requirements during an inspection. Entries in the diary of James Montross, deputy sheriff for the Dutchess County Jail, indicated at least two different instances when minors were housed with adults. Mr. Dvorocski, a former inmate of the jail testified about an instance when it was the inmates who informed the guards that a certain prisoner housed on their floor was a minor and it was as a result of that information that the minor was moved.

 The Sheriff testified that he was unable to comply with the terms of the stipulation with respect to the classification of inmates, and he maintains that he has done what he can to be as close to compliance as possible. The court does not agree. No adequate procedure has been established for determining the proper classification of each inmate as he is admitted to the jail. No concerted and constant attempt has been made to transfer inmates who cannot be properly housed within the existing facilities of the jail. As was noted above, the Sheriff, aware that the jail was not in compliance with the order as entered by Judge Gurfein, made no communication to the court for clarification of the order or to be relieved of his responsibilities under it. To the extent he was able to comply without effort, he did so. Otherwise, he willfully continued to operate the jail without properly classifying the inmates.

 2. Inmate Personal Hygiene

 The stipulation required that the inmates receive specific items of clean bedding and that necessary toilet articles such as shampoo and deodorant be available by purchase or otherwise. White goods and institutional clothing were to be exchanged at least weekly and blankets, mattresses and pillows were to be checked and aired frequently. When an inmate was discharged, all his bedding was to be removed from the housing area and laundered, cleaned or repaired as necessary before being reissued. Each inmate, health permitting, was to bathe immediately upon admission, and an adequate supply of water at a suitable temperature was to be available at all times in the showers. In addition, the stipulation incorporated the requirements of 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 5100.6. The statute requires that items such as soap, razors, toothbrush and toothpaste be furnished to all prisoners as needed. The testimony showed that the jail did not conform to these standards and that this failure was willful.

 I find that the inmates do not receive the required bedding, linen and clothing nor are they afforded an adequate opportunity to bathe themselves. There are no written procedures or other guidelines to instruct the guards on duty as to the personal articles a newly-admitted inmate will receive. The Sheriff testified that there is a standing order that inmates be given the proper bedding, but he did not know whether or not the order was complied with and could only assume that the guards were informed of the requirement by their superiors. The Sheriff admitted that blankets and pillows are not necessarily laundered before being reissued and did not know whether mattresses were cleaned upon being returned by a departing inmate. The mattresses are generally without covers.

 Inmates do not regularly get showers upon admittance, nor are they decontaminated. There was considerable uncontradicted testimony that although the water temperature is generally suitable for bathing, there are frequent incidents when inmates are scalded by unexpected bursts of hot water.

 3. Health Services

 The stipulation contained several requirements with respect to inmate health services. Each inmate in continuous custody at the jail for 14 days or more was to be examined by a physician. Any inmate admitted to the jail for public intoxication or complaining of or evidencing any illness or disorder requiring prompt medical attention was to be examined by a physician at the time of admission or as soon thereafter as possible. The jail was to provide adequate rooms, equipment and supplies for conducting physical examinations and for treating emergencies and minor illnesses and injuries. The jail was required to arrange quarters for inmates too ill to remain safely in the general jail population but not so ill as to require hospitalization. Facilities or arrangements for curative and preventive dental care were ordered. The jail was directed to afford any inmate suffering from any chronic condition appropriate treatment and care irrespective of his status or the anticipated length of his confinement. The stipulation also incorporated the requirements of 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 5100.11, which includes among other things requirements pertaining to proper storage and control of drugs. The statute also requires that to the extent possible facility personnel be trained in first aid and emergency life saving techniques.

 The court finds that the provisions of the stipulation with respect to inmate health services were continually and willfully violated. The jail has had a series of part-time physicians, who have never been informed of the stipulation entered into in this matter and who have received little guidance or support from the Sheriff. Although the jail physician informed the Sheriff of the great need for psychiatric, psychological or counselling services within the jail, the Sheriff was not interested. This is true despite the fact that the New York State Commission on Correction directed the Sheriff to provide the services of a professional social worker. During an interview with Mr. Swiderek, a correctional facility review specialist, Sheriff Quinlan asserted that a social worker had been visiting the jail, but all attempts to verify that fact through visitors' logs and conversations with officers and inmates were unsuccessful. Furthermore, Dr. Newman, Commissioner of Mental Hygiene, informed Sheriff Quinlan in early 1975 that his department could provide on a full-time basis whatever mental services the jail needed without any additional cost to the Sheriff's department. These services included a psychiatrist or a psychiatric social worker. The Sheriff never took advantage of this opportunity. As of the date of the hearing no arrangement had been made or even attempted to provide full-time mental health services at the jail. Arrangements have been made, however, for twenty inmates to visit the Mental Health Center ...


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