The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRANKEL
The seven plaintiffs are serving terms of imprisonment under New York State convictions. Until recently their place of confinement was the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. They have been found guilty of disciplinary infractions during their terms, and have been subjected to prison sanctions, including substantial periods of segregation they have not completed serving. On July 23, 1976, they allege, they were transferred to Matteawan State Hospital, which is designated and used to confine and treat prisoners who are mentally ill. In their complaint, they charge maltreatment of various kinds - unwarranted segregation, severely close confinement, involuntary treatment with psychotropic drugs, and a general course of coercion and abuse under a behavior modification program known, in our time of relentless acronyms, as S.T.E.A.D.Y. ("Steps Toward Eventual Acceptance of a Disciplined You"). As a prior, threshold matter, they contend that their transfer to a hospital for prisoners who are mentally ill without a commitment hearing violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. In the court's view this first claim, resolved preliminarily for the plaintiffs, is the only one requiring decision at the present juncture.
The occasion is a motion for a preliminary injunction. Both sides have filed affidavits. Some gaps and conflicts in these submissions were sufficiently handled for purposes of the motion by a visit of court and counsel to the Matteawan facility on November 7, 1976. As to the legal issues, defendants have hewn to a rigid line that the court lacks jurisdiction because, as they phrase it, "transfer of inmates from one prison to another in the Correctional system is not a matter requiring a hearing, judicial or otherwise." That proposition, if the quoted phrasing may be a little sweeping, is rested upon strong recent precedents, Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 96 S. Ct. 2543, 49 L. Ed. 2d 466 (1976); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 96 S. Ct. 2532, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451 (1976), and is not really contested here. But cf. United States ex rel. Schuster v. Herold, 410 F.2d 1071, 1077-78 (2d Cir. 1969). Plaintiffs argue, however, that defendants are in the wrong key numbers, and that the controlling authorities are those forbidding commitment to a place for mentally sick prisoners without a hearing. Upon the facts as hereinafter found, the court sustains plaintiffs' thesis.
Not seriously answering plaintiffs' legal position, defendants have urged that plaintiffs are not in a hospital for mentally ill prisoners, but in what is, though formerly part of such a hospital, a distinct enclave designated as "Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Annex." It turns out, however, that the place in question is physically, administratively, morally, and spiritually a part of Matteawan, and that the official excision and rechristening upon which defendants rely cannot erase the decisive realities.
Defendants' position begins with an amendment to a regulation of defendant Commissioner, conveniently dated July 23, 1976, when plaintiffs were transferred. The changed regulation says in pertinent part, with the official underscoring showing the amendatory additions:
"There shall be in the department an institution to be known as Matteawan State Hospital which shall be located at Beacon in Dutchess County, New York, on the grounds of the Fishkill Correctional Facility, and which shall consist of Buildings one, two, three, four except wards 14 and 18 thereof, five, six, seven, except ward 19 thereof, seven-a, eight and nine. Matteawan State Hospital shall also consist of Building thirteen North until inmates thereof are transferred to Wards sixteen and twenty of Building four, and thereafter Building thirteen North shall be part of Fishkill Correctional Facility.
"Pursuant to the authority vested in me as Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services of the State of New York under Sections 70 and 112 of the Correction Law, the following section of Title 7 of the New York State Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations is added to read as follows:
"Section 100.81 Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Annex.
"There shall be in the department an institution to be known as Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Annex which shall be located at: building seven, ward 19, on the grounds of Fishkill Correctional Facility at Beacon in Dutchess County New York. This portion shall be used as a special housing unit for inmates confined in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, but while in such unit they shall be deemed to be under the care, custody and control of the Superintendent of Fishkill Correctional Facility."
It is this enactment which leads an Acting Deputy Superintendent to tell us in an affidavit that plaintiffs' suit is mistaken because:
"The plaintiffs are presently housed in a housing unit which is physically part of the Matteawan State Hospital but has been designated the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Annex."
The physical facts to which the Deputy refers are stark and compelling. While the quoted regulation speaks of a series of ten "buildings" by number, the fact is that all of them are part of a single interconnected structure which an unrehearsed observer might call a single "building." This structure comprises 21 wards, tailor and laundry shop, kitchen, mess hall, school room, infirmary and morgue. Apart from how outsiders might see it, during the court's visit, the personnel conducting our tour referred to the whole connected edifice, lumping all the numbers together, as "the main building." When we asked, consulting their Commissioner's regulation, which number applied to what, our guides found it necessary to call colleagues who knew these designations. The numeration, we learned, relates to segments that nobody would normally call separate "buildings;" the separations ...