Filed Date: Sept. 30, 1988
Clearinghouse coding complete
This case challenged Florida’s prison system and its treatment of individuals in protective custody compared to those in the general population. It culminated in a settlement which mandated reforms to Florida’s protective custody system. Unfortunately, the publicly available documents for this case are limited.
On September 20, 1988, eleven incarcerated persons filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Defendants included the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and the superintendents of three correctional facilities. Represented by the Florida Justice Institute and Florida Institutional Legal Services, plaintiffs alleged defendants had a policy, pattern, or custom of imposing harsh and punitive measures on people housed in protective custody. This included the following:
Under 42 U.S.C. §1983, plaintiffs alleged the disparate treatment and conditions faced by persons in protective custody compared to those in the general population violated both the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They sought certification of a class under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) for “all persons who are currently incarcerated at prisons operated by the Florida Department of Corrections or who will be incarcerated at prisons operated by the Florida Department of Corrections in the future and who are, or will seek to be, placed in protective confinement for their own safety.” They sought attorneys fees, declaratory relief, and an injunction against the above conduct.
After two years of litigation and right before trial, defendants announced they were revising their policies. Additionally, defendants conceded plaintiffs were the prevailing parties and claimed the conditions leading to the class action no longer existed. However, defendants refused to admit their actions were unconstitutional. Defendants had renamed their “protective containment” program to “protective management” (“PM”).
A trial was held, after which the District Court refused to grant declaratory or injunctive relief. In effect, defendants’ voluntary reforms to the PM system had rendered the case moot. The District Court refused to create a mechanism to monitor the new PM system. The court felt that the defendants’ internal grievance procedure was an adequate remedy. The court ordered the case closed and instructed plaintiffs to bring a new suit if conditions once again became an issue.
Plaintiffs appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. They argued that voluntary cessation of illegal conduct did not moot the case. Additionally, there were still lingering unconstitutional conditions despite the changes defendants made at the eve of trial. This included the following:
Additionally, plaintiffs argued that the grievance procedure was an inadequate solution, despite the District Court’s reliance on it. Many individuals had attempted to use this system during the litigation and were “uniformly unsuccessful.” Even if they were granted, they were often told a “task force would study the issue” with no further changes.
On April 5, 1995, the Eleventh Circuit summarily affirmed the District Court’s decision. 52 F.3d 1071.
According to the Florida Justice Institute, the case ultimately culminated in a settlement which “completely changed the Florida Department of Corrections’ protective custody procedures and the conditions for those being held there.” Unfortunately, the specific terms of this settlement were not publicly available.
We were not able to find any further public record of what occurred in this case.
Eric Gripp (2/20/2022)
Paine, James Carriger (Florida)
Berg, Randall Challen Jr. (Florida)
Butterworth, Robert A. (Florida)
Maher, Susan Adams (Florida)
Peters, James Aaron (Florida)
Last updated July 10, 2023, 3:14 a.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: Florida
Filing Date: Sept. 30, 1988
Case Ongoing: No reason to think so
Eleven incarcerated persons under the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.
Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Mixed
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Type of Facility: