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GRUBBS v. BRADLEY

May 14, 1993

SCOTTY GRUBBS, et al.
v.
CHRISTINE BRADLEY, et al. Re: Prison conditions litigation



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS A. HIGGINS

 This matter is before the Court on the various reports of the Special Master and the objections of the parties, all of which relate to the termination of this litigation pursuant to the order entered November 9, 1987 (Docket Entry No. 510), and the defendants' motion (filed September 5, 1991; Docket Entry No. 724) to vacate remedial orders and to terminate this litigation.

 The Court is now called upon to evaluate whether the legitimate constitutional objectives of this litigation have been achieved, and determine whether the Court should terminate its supervisory control over the state prison system.

 I.

 At a trial on the merits in 1981, the inmate plaintiffs in this class action sought injunctive and declaratory relief related to constitutional challenges to the conditions of confinement at various Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) adult penal institutions. In 1982, the Court issued a memorandum opinion and order which held that seven (7) practices and conditions of confinement at TDOC's facilities violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Grubbs v. Bradley, 552 F. Supp. 1052, 1131-32 (M.D. Tenn. 1982).

 In addition to the seven original 1982 orders, the Court also has issued other remedial orders in this case. Some of the more significant of these orders pertain to: (1) inmate population capacities for TDOC facilities and (2) the Grubbs matrix plan and timetable, which was a comprehensive evaluation containing approximately 1,584 specific remedial recommendations and served as an operational guide for TDOC. In 1987, this Court directed that the accomplishment of the remedial orders of the Court be completed by June 30, 1992. See Docket Entry No. 510.

 The defendants' efforts to remedy the unconstitutional conditions found by the Court in 1982, and comply with the other remedial orders of the Court have been an ongoing process. This class action has now been in litigation for well over ten (10) years, and it has been four (4) years since the Court accepted and approved the matrix plan and timetables. The record in this action demonstrates the dramatic, proven progress the defendants have made in operating Tennessee's correctional facilities.

 There was a time in the not too distant past when a former warden of the Tennessee State Penitentiary bragged publicly that all that was required to run a penitentiary in Tennessee was a "shotgun, a strap and a checkbook."

 There can be no doubt that the shocking conditions which existed at that time in the Tennessee prison system, and at the time this litigation was first instituted in the state court and later in this Court, do not exist today.

 The Tennessee prison system today is an altogether new and completely rehabilitated system. This turn around is due to the leadership of former Governor Alexander who responded promptly to the orders the Court issued in October, 1985, and to the extraordinary "hands on" leadership of Governor McWherter and his administration and the two Commissioners, Messrs. Norris and Reynolds, who oversaw the day-to-day implementation of the Court's remedial orders. Finally, credit is due to the men and women in the ranks who worked to change the system and today can take pride in what they helped to bring about: a humane and constitutional prison system.

 II.

 The record in this case demonstrates that in the last ten (10) years the defendants have made dramatic improvements in the major areas of concern in the Grubbs litigation. See Docket Entry No. 686 at 2 -- memorandum opinion of the Court entered August 16, 1990. Policies and procedures have been developed and implemented by TDOC which evince the defendants' institutional commitment that these correctional advances will be maintained. See May 15, 1992, transcript of proceedings at 113-17. As the Court noted at the May 15, 1992, hearing in this case, "absent some direct effort to dismantle the system, . . . there [is] a wholehearted commitment on the part of the [defendants] to run a good system." Id. at 140. As is noted below in more detail, the defendants have expended during this litigation considerable time, energy and money to comply with the original directives of 1982, and other remedial measures of the Court in this case.

 The Court finds that the defendants have complied with the remedial orders of the Court in this case with one relatively significant exception. See May 1, 1992, Report of the Special Master Regarding the Defendants' Compliance With The Court's Orders at 31 (Docket Entry No. 745). Generally, with regard to the Tennessee prison system as a whole, the Court finds that the housing provided at TDOC facilities, which is the subject of this litigation, is constitutionally adequate. The Court also finds that the sanitation conditions at TDOC facilities pertaining both to living units and food storage, service and preparation are constitutionally adequate. With respect to personal safety, the Court finds that the risk of violence that existed in the early 1980s has been remedied by TDOC through a variety of measures. The Court further finds that the system of health care delivery to TDOC inmates is constitutionally adequate except as to a quality assurance plan. In addition, the Court finds that the specific goals set forth in the Grubbs matrix have been substantially satisfied.

 III.

 Five (5) of seven (7) of the unconstitutional conditions found by the Court in August, 1982, were institution specific, and not systemic constitutional violations. The record in this case reflects the defendants' compliance in remedying the four (4) institution specific confinement conditions pertaining to housing, sanitation, environmental conditions, and exercise. The fifth institution specific violation regarding personal safety will be discussed below, as will the two (2) systematic violations regarding classification and health care delivery.

 A.

 Based on the record in this case, the Court finds that the institution specific conditions pertaining to housing, hot water, sanitation and exercise are constitutionally adequate. Since the issuance of the Court's order dated October 11, 1982, the Court has certified the defendants' compliance with respect to the use of Guild 17 at the Nashville Regional Correctional Facility; provision of hot water at D Block at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary and Guild 17; renovation and use of D Block at Brushy Mountain; and renovation of the Main Building at Nashville Community Service Center. See Docket Entry No. 292(a). Single celling at the Tennessee State Penitentiary (TSP), Units I-IV, was accomplished on August 2, 1985. See Docket Entry Nos. 331, 335 at 3-4. With respect to single celling at Guild 17, the unit was razed on April 16, 1984. See Docket Entry No. 291(c). Although not addressed in a subsequent order of the Court, TDOC remedied the unconstitutional condition regarding exercise by promulgating TDOC Policy No. 506.16(VI)(B)(4), which affords segregated inmates exercise periods. Also, the Court previously concluded that the defendants' plan to remedy the sanitation procedures in the food storage, preparation and service areas at TSP, Fort Pillow Prison and Farm, and Brushy Mountain was constitutionally adequate. See Docket Entry No. 292(a).

 B.

 In 1982, the Court determined that TDOC's classification function was a systemic deficiency in Tennessee's prisons. Grubbs, supra, 552 F. Supp. at 1060. Classification was considered by the Court to be one of the likely causes of violence in Tennessee's prisons. Id. at 1128. Pursuant to the May, 1992, Compliance Report of the Special Master in this action, the Court finds that the problems in inmate classification noted by the Court in 1982 have been essentially ...


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