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Mack Butler, Dashaun Sims, Clyde Lofton, Paul v. Suffolk County

April 5, 2012

MACK BUTLER, DASHAUN SIMS, CLYDE LOFTON, PAUL ALVER, KEVIN KING, AND RICKEY LYNCH, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SUFFOLK COUNTY, VINCENT F. DEMARCO, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JOSEPH T. CARACAPPA, DEMANDED IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND JOHN P. MEYERRICKS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



CONSOLIDATED

AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

JURY TRIAL

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

NATURE OF THE ACTION ......................................................................................................... 1 JURISDICTION AND VENUE ..................................................................................................... 2 PARTIES ........................................................................................................................................ 3

I. The Named Plaintiffs.............................................................................................. 3 II.

The Defendants ....................................................................................................... 5

CLASS ACTION ALLEGATIONS ............................................................................................... 6

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS ......................................................................................................... 8

I. Background............................................................................................................. 8

II. Overcrowding at the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities ................................. 9

III. The Squalid, Unhygienic, and Hazardous Living Conditions at the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities .............................................................................. 11

A. The Riverhead Facility -- "I know we've done things wrong, but nobody should have to live like this"........................................................ 11

i. Chronic Exposure to Human Waste...............................................11

ii. Hazardous Showers -- Corrections officer admits "I would not even put my dog in these showers"................................................13

iii. Prolonged Exposure to Mold, Rust, Vermin, Freezing Temperatures, and Leaking Water, in a Facility Lacking Adequate Ventilation .....................................................................14

B. The Yaphank Facility -- "I shouldn't have to live in fear for my health and safety"................................................................................................ 17

i. Chronic Exposure to Human Waste...............................................17

ii. Hazardous Showers........................................................................18

iii. Prolonged Exposure to Mold, Rust, Vermin, Freezing Temperatures, and Leaking Water, in a Facility Lacking Adequate Ventilation .....................................................................19

IV. Lack of Access to Clean Drinking Water and Safe Food at the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities -- "I wouldn't even give my dog the stuff they gave us" ................................................................................................................ 21

A. Riverhead's Contaminated Drinking Water and Food.............................. 22

B. Yaphank's Contaminated Drinking Water and Food................................ 24

V. Defendants' Pattern and Practice of Deliberate Indifference to the Inhumane Conditions at the SCCF ........................................................................................ 27

A. Suffolk County ......................................................................................... 27

B. Defendants DeMarco, Caracappa, and Meyerricks .................................. 33 CAUSES OF ACTION ................................................................................................................. 36

PRAYER FOR RELIEF ............................................................................................................... 38

Plaintiffs Mack Butler, Dashaun Sims, Clyde Lofton, Paul Alver, Kevin King, and Rickey Lynch (collectively, the "named Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, by their attorneys Shearman & Sterling LLP and of-counsel New York Civil Liberties Union, in their Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint (the "Complaint") herein against Suffolk County (the "County"), Vincent F. DeMarco, Joseph T. Caracappa, and John P. Meyerricks (collectively, the "Defendants"), allege as follows:

NATURE OF THE ACTION

1. The men detained in the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities (the "SCCF"), the majority of whom have not been convicted of any crime, are subjected to inhumane conditions that pose unreasonable and substantial risks to their health. The men are forced to live in overcrowded conditions, amidst filth, overflowing sewage, and pervasive mold, rust, and vermin. The Fifth Circuit once noted, "No one in civilized society should be forced to live under conditions that force exposure to another person's bodily wastes." Yet night after night, the men confined in the SCCF -- both at the Riverhead and Yaphank facilities -- are forced to do exactly that.

2. The men detained in the SCCF lack access to clean drinking water and safe food, as well as basic necessities such as sanitary and properly functioning sinks, toilets, and showers. Rodents and insects invade their living areas and contaminate their food. In the winter, the men sleep in freezing cells, made colder still by leaking water that drips into their sleeping quarters. They attempt to stave off the cold with a single worn blanket. These conditions, independently and through their mutually reinforcing effects, produce a serious deprivation of basic human needs.

3. Even corrections officers at the SCCF have commented on the deplorable and inhumane conditions at the facilities, describing them as unfit for animals. As a direct result of the poor conditions of the facilities, the men detained there suffer from chronic ailments -- including persistent and recurring digestive and respiratory issues, skin infections and rashes, and dehydration -- and are at a current and ongoing risk of suffering from more serious ailments in the future.

4. This action is brought to end a pattern and practice of deliberate indifference to the inhumane conditions in which the men detained in the SCCF live. The Defendants are those who are responsible for overseeing the facilities but have failed to ensure a safe and sanitary environment for the men, instead allowing the facilities to remain overcrowded and to continue deteriorating.

5. The Defendants have known about the appalling conditions in the SCCF for years, but they have failed to make reasonable efforts to remedy those conditions. As a result, Plaintiffs, six current and former detainees and prisoners housed within the SCCF, bring this action for injunctive relief in the form of an appropriate remedial order to improve the conditions in the facilities to meet constitutionally acceptable standards, declaratory relief, and money damages to redress Defendants' violation of Plaintiffs' rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Due Process Clause of the New York State Constitution.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

6. This action arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States, including 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3). This Court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims based on New York law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

7. This Court has jurisdiction to issue the declaratory relief requested pursuant to the Declaratory Relief Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. This Court may also grant injunctive relief pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2283, 2284, and 3626, and Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

8. Venue is proper in the Eastern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). All the events described in this Complaint occurred in the Eastern District of New York.

PARTIES

I.The Named Plaintiffs

9. Mr. Mack Butler, 37 years old, has four young children and has lived in Suffolk County for most of his life. Mr. Butler is currently detained in the Riverhead Correctional Facility ("Riverhead") of the SCCF located at 100 Center Drive, Riverhead, New York 11901. He has been detained in the SCCF since January 2011 and is still awaiting trial. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. Butler has been exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

10. Mr. Dashaun Sims, 23 years old, grew up in Suffolk County, in Amityville, New York. He has a three-year-old son. Mr. Sims is currently detained in Riverhead and has been detained in that facility since May 2010. Mr. Sims is awaiting sentencing. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. Sims has been exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

11. Mr. Clyde Lofton, 26 years old, has a young son and worked as a chef prior to his incarceration in the SCCF. Mr. Lofton is currently detained in the Yaphank Correctional Facility ("Yaphank") of the SCCF, at 69 Yaphank Avenue, Yaphank, New York. He has been detained in Yaphank since September 2011 and is still awaiting trial. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. Lofton has been exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

12. Mr. Paul Alver, 21 years old, grew up in Suffolk County, in Bayshore, New York, in a large family. He has training in carpentry and electrical wiring. Mr. Alver is currently detained in Yaphank and has been detained in that facility since September 2011. Mr. Alver is currently serving a sentence for a non-violent crime. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. Alver has been exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

13. Mr. Kevin King, 27 years old, is the father of two young children and worked in retail and construction prior to his incarceration in the SCCF. He was detained in Riverhead from January 2011 until early April 2012. Mr. King was convicted in January 2012 of a non-violent crime. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. King was exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

14. Mr. Rickey Lynch, 49 years old, has spent much of his life in Suffolk County, in Coram, New York, and ran a cleaning business prior to his incarceration in the SCCF.

Mr. Lynch was detained in Yaphank from July 2010 through November 2010 and Riverhead from November 2010 through October 2011. Mr. Lynch was convicted in October 2011 of a non-violent crime. At all times while detained in the SCCF, Mr. Lynch was exposed to the conditions described in this Complaint.

15. As a result of their confinement in the SCCF and exposure to the conditions described in this Complaint, Plaintiffs have suffered intestinal illnesses, skin conditions, respiratory infections, fungal infections, nose bleeds, headaches, blurred vision, and dizziness.

16. Each named Plaintiff currently detained in the SCCF at the time of the filing of this Complaint sues for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages on behalf of himself and all other members of the Plaintiff class who are similarly situated, and for injunctive relief on behalf of all members of the Plaintiff class who be will detained in the SCCF in the future. Each named Plaintiff previously detained in the SCCF sues for declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages on behalf of himself and all other members of the Plaintiff class who are similarly situated.

II.The Defendants

17. Defendant Suffolk County operates the SCCF through its Sheriff's Office and allocates funds for the maintenance of the SCCF. The Sheriff's Office promulgates and implements policies at the SCCF, including those governing the living and housing conditions, grievance procedures, and access to medical and other program services, mandated by local law and court orders, at the SCCF.

18. Defendant Vincent F. DeMarco is the Sheriff of Suffolk County, a post he has held since November 8, 2005. As Sheriff, Defendant DeMarco is the chief executive officer at the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office operates the SCCF and, upon information and belief, currently employs approximately 300 deputy sheriffs and 900 corrections officers to work in those facilities. As Sheriff, Defendant DeMarco has final policy-making authority for all matters relating to the operation of the SCCF, including final policy-making authority and ultimate responsibility for the custody, treatment, control, and care of all persons detained in the SCCF. The individuals working at the SCCF are Defendant DeMarco's agents and employees. Defendant DeMarco is sued in his individual and official capacity.

19. Defendant Undersheriffs Joseph T. Caracappa and John P. Meyerricks are Defendant DeMarco's deputies, and, upon information and belief, they oversee the day-to-day operation of the SCCF. Defendant Caracappa was previously a Suffolk County legislator and a member of the Public Safety & Public Information Committee of the Suffolk County Legislature. In that role, Defendant Caracappa attended various Public Safety & Public Information Committee meetings, including meetings in 2004, 2006, and 2007, during which the Committee discussed the desperate need for renovations and maintenance of the SCCF. Defendants Caracappa and Meyerricks are sued in their individual and official capacities.

CLASS ACTION ALLEGATIONS

20. Plaintiffs bring this action on their own behalf and, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on behalf of all persons who are, were, or will be imprisoned in the SCCF.

21. Plaintiffs Butler, Sims, Lofton, and Alver represent a class of persons ("Injunctive Class") primarily seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and defined as follows:

All persons who, now or at any time in the future, are or will be detainees or prisoners in the custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department and housed in the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities located in Riverhead, New York and Yaphank, New York.

22. All of the named Plaintiffs represent a class of persons ("Damages Class") seeking damages for harms incurred as a result of the conditions described herein and defined as follows:

All persons who are or were detainees or prisoners in the custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department and housed in the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities ("SCCF") located in Riverhead, New York and Yaphank, New York and who were or will be released from the SCCF on or after April 5, 2009.

23. The SCCF has a daily average population of 1,732 detainees and prisoners. Upon information and belief, the classes consist of thousands of individual claimants and joinder of all their members is impracticable.

24. The questions of law and fact presented by the named Plaintiffs are common to other members of the classes. Each class member's claim raises the same basic questions:

(1) whether the conditions of confinement described in this Complaint violate the United States Constitution and New York State law; (2) for the Injunctive Class, what type of injunctive relief is appropriate and necessary to ensure the conditions at the SCCF meet constitutional standards; and (3) for the Damages Class, what damages should be awarded to redress the harms suffered by the members of the class as a result of the unconstitutional conditions they were subjected to at the SCCF.

25. The claims of the named Plaintiffs are typical of the claims of the classes. The named Plaintiffs, like all class members, allege that Defendants violated their rights under the United States Constitution and New York State law by subjecting them to the conditions of confinement described in this Complaint. All class members will benefit from amelioration of the conditions at the SCCF and issuance of appropriate remedies. The named Plaintiffs' interests in successfully resolving this action are thus consistent with the interests of all other class members, and there is no actual or potential conflict between the named Plaintiffs and other members of the classes.

26. The named Plaintiffs have retained competent and experienced counsel. The named Plaintiffs, through counsel, will fairly and adequately represent and protect the interests of all class members.

27. The Plaintiffs' counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP, is an international law firm with offices in New York City and 19 other locations worldwide. Shearman & Sterling has extensive experience in complex federal litigation and in pro bono federal civil rights litigation, and has the necessary personnel and financial resources to effectively litigate this case.

28. Of-counsel in this case, the New York Civil Liberties Union (the "NYCLU"), is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1951 as the New York State affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU has long been devoted to protecting the fundamental rights and values embodied in the United States Constitution and the New York Constitution, and has extensive experience in litigating federal court class action cases involving civil rights claims. Indeed, the NYCLU has specific history successfully litigating class actions involving the SCCF in the Eastern District of New York. In 1974, the NYCLU served as class counsel in Manicone v. Cleary, 74 Civ. 575 (JBW) (E.D.N.Y.), a class action challenging certain conditions of confinement at the SCCF. That case resulted in a consent order that remained in effect for more than two decades, during which time the NYCLU consistently served as counsel to the class in enforcement actions and motions to modify the consent order.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

I.Background

29. The Suffolk County Correctional Facilities consist of the Riverhead Correctional Facility, a medium/maximum security jail, and the Yaphank Correctional Facility, a minimum security jail. The majority of the men detained in the SCCF either are awaiting trial or have been convicted of minor, non-violent crimes. In a study published in 2008, the Suffolk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (the "SCCJCC"), an interagency council formed to monitor prison conditions and crime in Suffolk County, estimated that 58% of people housed in the SCCF were pretrial detainees and 33% were sentenced prisoners. Sentenced prisoners are either serving a local jail sentence, which typically does not exceed one year, or are awaiting transfer to a New York state prison. Other individuals detained in the SCCF are alleged to have violated the terms of their parole and are awaiting their parole hearings or serving a sentence for a parole violation.

30. The SCCF has a history of violating minimum health and safety standards for correctional facilities in the State of New York. In 1997, The New York Times quoted a spokesman for the New York State Commission of Corrections ("NYSCOC"), who described the SCCF as "the most seriously and profoundly overcrowded county facility in the state." Seven years later, a February 2004 article in The New York Times quoted the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office as acknowledging that the severe overcrowding issues in the SCCF continued and estimating that the SCCF was typically housing at least 1,400 persons, but often more than 1,500, in facilities that, at the time, could handle just over 1,100.

31. In studies conducted that same year, and again in 2007, the SCCJCC concluded that the facilities remained dangerously overcrowded.

32. In 2010, a physician who provided medical services to those detained in the SCCF in 2007 and 2008 filed a lawsuit in this Court against the County for retaliating against her for reporting substandard and inadequate medical care and possible abuse of the men detained there. See Dillon v. Suffolk Cnty. Dep't of Health Serv., et al., 07-CV-04722 (ADS) (WDW) (filed Nov. 1, 2010).

II.Overcrowding at the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities

33. Despite the fact that the current stated capacity of the SCCF is 1,327 persons across both the Riverhead and Yaphank facilities, the SCCF has sought permission from the State of New York to house a daily average of 1,732 persons.

34. In 2004, NYSCOC ordered two dormitories in Yaphank to be permanently shut down, decreasing capacity by 140 beds, due to the decrepit and unsafe conditions that culminated in a serious sewage overflow in the dormitories. NYSCOC subsequently approved the temporary use of the Yaphank gymnasium as a housing area to make up for those lost beds. More than eight years later, approximately 60 men continue to be housed in the gymnasium area in Yaphank. Upon information and belief, no alternative indoor space is provided for fitness and recreational activities.

35. According to the 2007 SCCJCC study referred to above, see supra ¶ 29, at Riverhead, 208 cots were set up inside the day area space and 56 cots were set up in the day area space of each "Pod" (i.e., individual cells built around a central open space) to accommodate the overflow of men detained there. The SCCJCC described these additional cots as "encroaching on space that was designed for other purposes." Additionally, according to the same study, 192 cells originally intended to house only one person were double-bunked to house two people. That same year, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office Chief of Staff referred to the overcrowding as a "code red" situation.

36. The 2007 SCCJCC study noted that the overcrowding variances that the NYSCOC granted were contingent on Suffolk County complying with the Commission's recommendation to add permanent jail space. A new Suffolk County correctional facility was originally scheduled to be completed in 2011, but was later delayed until "early 2012." Upon information and belief, at the time of filing this Complaint, this planned addition neither is in operation nor has an official opening date.

37. Suffolk County frequently transfers men detained in the SCCF back and forth to other correctional facilities, such as the facilities in Nassau County, to lower the population count in the SCCF, at great cost to ...


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