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U.S. Appeals Court


Benjamin v. Fraser, 161 F.Supp.2d 151 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). Department of Corrections officials who had entered into a consent decree governing conditions for pretrial detainees in New York City jails moved for the immediate termination of those decrees under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The consent decree involved fourteen jails that housed over 10,000 inmates. The district court terminated some provisions of the decree, including those involving inmate correspondence and law libraries. The court held a hearing on the issues of environmental health and personal hygiene supplies. According to the court, the presence of some inoperable sinks, toilets and showers in the jails did not rise to the level of a violation of pretrial detainees' due process rights. Judge Baer concluded "Clearly, in some of the institutions the plumbing is deplorable, but one must keep in mind that we are dealing with prisons juxtaposed with the tests set out in the applicable caselaw." The court found that the mere presence of vermin in the jails did not rise to the level of a violation of pretrial detainees' due process rights. The court distinguished between "vermin activity" and "vermin infestation."

State health code violations in the jails' food service were not found to rise to the level of a violation of pretrial detainees' due process rights, where sanitary practices were adequate and no detainee had suffered a reported incident of food-borne illness.

Due process violations were found from the combination of various unsanitary conditions in cells and clinics, together with poor lighting. The court noted that the combination of inhumane conditions of confinement may violate the constitution when taken together--such as cold temperature combined with lack of blankets--even though each condition alone would not amount to a violation. The conditions included: unsanitary mattresses; soiled light shields and other lighting problems; dirty or clogged ventilation registers; vermin activity mildewed and decrepit bathroom and shower areas; clogged toilets; dirty janitor's closets; shortages of laundry detergent; dirty cells; and dirty clinic areas. (New York City Department of Corrections)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:prisoner litigation
Publication:Corrections Caselaw Quarterly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Previous Article:Female prisoners.
Next Article:Free speech, expression, and association.

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