2 L. Ed. 2d 630, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958)(plurality opinion)).
However, the Eighth Amendment does not "mandate comfortable prisons," Rhodes at 349, and "only those deprivations denying 'the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities,' are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321 (1991) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. at 347). Thus, courts "must proceed cautiously in making an Eighth Amendment judgment because, unless reversed by the Court, '[a] decision that a given punishment is impermissible under the Eighth Amendment cannot be reversed short of a constitutional amendment" and thus "'revisions cannot be made in the light of further experience.'" Rhodes, supra, at 351 (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 176).
Further, "in assessing claims that conditions of confinement are cruel and unusual, courts must bear in mind that their inquiries 'spring from constitutional requirements and that judicial answers to them must reflect that fact rather than a court's idea of how best to operate a detention facility.'" Rhodes, supra, at 351 (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 539, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861). Applying these criteria, the Court in Rhodes found no violation of the Eighth Amendment where the challenged confinement condition was that two prisoners were forced to share as a result of serious overcrowding, a single cell provided sixty-three square feet of living space in a correctional facility that otherwise provided adequate living conditions.
In Wilson, supra, the Supreme Court held that in addition to showing a serious violation of minimum standards of daily living requirements, an objective standard, an Eighth Amendment claimant must also establish that the prison officials acted with the knowledge and intent, a subjective requirement, that the challenged condition, not imposed as part of the sentence of punishment, inflicted pain on a prisoner so as to constitute a wanton infliction of pain. Wilson, supra, at 300-301. In Wilson, the Court specifically held that in order for responsible officials to be found to have been guilty of wanton infliction of pain through the maintaining of inadequate conditions of confinement, the officials must be shown to have acted with "deliberate indifference" to the conditions claimed to be "inhumane." Wilson, at 303.
Further, in scrutinizing the challenged condition, a court is "under an obligation to examine the actual effect of challenged conditions upon the well-being of the prisoners." Rhodes, at 367 (concurring opinion of Brennan, Blackman and Stevens, JJ.) (emphasis in original). "In determining when prison conditions pass beyond legitimate punishment and become cruel and unusual, the 'touchstone is the effect upon the imprisoned.'" Id. at 364 (quoting Laaman v. Helgemoe, 437 F. Supp. 269, 323). However, in assessing whether the responsible officials may be found to have acted with the required subjective element of wantonness, the effect upon the prisoner is not controlling, rather, the question "depends upon the constraints facing the official" Wilson, supra, at 303.
The Supreme Court recently held that to find that a prison official acted with deliberate indifference to a challenged condition of confinement under the Eighth Amendment, it must be shown that the official had knowledge of and disregarded "an excessive risk to inmate health and safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1979, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1994). While financial constraints may not in themselves immunize an official from an Eighth Amendment violation, Albro v. Onondaga County, 681 F. Supp.991, 996 (N.D.N.Y. 1988) ("economic factors may not be cited as basis for continued imposition of hardships and privations" upon prisoners), fiscal constraints beyond the control of responsible officials may be relevant to the issue of the intent required for a constitutional violation, if asserted as defense. Wilson, supra, at 301-302.
Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a pre-trial detainee held in state custody has no right to be "free from discomfort" but does enjoy the right to be free from being subjected to conditions of confinement while awaiting trial which "amount to punishment," Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), as "under the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law." Id. In assessing whether a challenged nature or condition can be considered as inflicting punishment the Court in Wolfish stated
Thus, if a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to "punishment." Conversely, if a restriction or condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal-if it is arbitrary or purposeless-a court permissibly may infer that the purpose of the governmental action is punishment that may not constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees qua detainees.
Wolfish, supra, at 539.
In Wolfish, the Court, in rejecting the notion that due process included a "one-man, one-cell principle," also pointed out that
. . . confining a given number of people in a given amount of space in such a manner as to cause them to endure genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time might raise serious questions under the Due Process clause as to whether those conditions amounted to punishment....