Case: CRIPA Investigation of the Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York

No Court Case | No Court

Filed Date: 2007

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 30, 2007 the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) notified the County of Westchester that it was opening an investigation into the conditions of the Westchester County Jail (“WCJ”) in Valhalla, New York , pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. On November 19, 2009, the DOJ sent it its Findings Letter to the WCJ. The letter stated that certain conditions at the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates. In particular, the WCJ failed t…

On August 30, 2007 the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) notified the County of Westchester that it was opening an investigation into the conditions of the Westchester County Jail (“WCJ”) in Valhalla, New York , pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1997 et seq. On November 19, 2009, the DOJ sent it its Findings Letter to the WCJ. The letter stated that certain conditions at the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates. In particular, the WCJ failed to (1) provide inmates with adequate medical and mental health care and (2) adequately protect inmates from harm and serious risk of harm from excessive force by staff.

The WCJ has three divisions including a women’s unit, with an overall operating capacity of 1,693 beds. In February 2008, the DOJ--jointly, the Civil Rights Division in DC and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York--conducted inspections of the WCJ, interviewing inmates and various staff members. After reviewing videotapes, the DOJ found a pattern and practice of use of excessive force by staff members when responded to emergencies. Officers would use tactics of threat and aggression that tended to escalate rather than de-escalate a tense situation. Some particularly troubling incidents were not reported to the Special Investigations Unit, a unit responsible for investigating allegations of inappropriate or unlawful use of force. The DOJ found that many of these incidents were inadequately reviewed by the WCJ, thus leading to a pattern of use of excessive force against inmate—in 2007, only two such investigations of excessive force ever occurred, despite dozens of incidents that the DOJ found by reviewing videotapes.

The DOJ also found WCJ’s standards of medical care unconstitutional. The WCJ provided inadequate infection control, access to dental care, and an inadequate medical grievance process. As for mental health services, the DOJ found deficiencies in the area of forced medication and also found that the WCJ had inadequate mental health treatment and suicide prevention measures for juveniles housed in its facility.

In 2015, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced an agreement with Westchester County Jail resolving the investigation. The agreement requires that the Jail cease its practice of placing minors under 18 years old in isolation or punitive segregation, and that it develop systems to address disciplinary issues in a manner that is consistent with minors’ needs and that does not deprive them of access to certain programs and services. The agreement also requires the development and implementation of alternative approaches to discipline for 18-year-old inmates. Other provisions relate to avoiding excessive force and providing better medical and mental health care for both minors and adults.

Finally, the agreement mandates the appointment of an independent monitor to assist the County in achieving compliance with the provisions of the agreement, to make reports concerning the status and progress of compliance, and to provide the County with technical assistance to comply with the provisions of the agreement. The United States and the monitor will have full access to the Jail and its records, staff, and inmates for the life of the agreement. The agreement will terminate in three years if the United States agrees that the County is in substantial compliance with all provisions and has maintained substantial compliance with all provisions for 24 months.

Summary Authors

Abigail DeHart (5/16/2017)

People


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bharara, Preetinder S. (New York)

Gupta, Vanita (New York)

La Morte, Tara Marie (New York)

Martin, Rebecca C. (New York)

Trainor, Cathleen (District of Columbia)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bharara, Preetinder S. (New York)

Gupta, Vanita (New York)

La Morte, Tara Marie (New York)

Martin, Rebecca C. (New York)

Trainor, Cathleen (District of Columbia)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Re: CRIPA Investigation of Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York

CRIPA Investigation of Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York

Nov. 19, 2009

Nov. 19, 2009

Findings Letter/Report

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Agreement With Westchester County Jail To Establish Corrective Measures And Appoint An Independent Monitor

[NA]

Nov. 24, 2015

Nov. 24, 2015

Press Release

Agreement Between the United States and the Westchester County Department of Corrections

CRIPA Investigation of Westchester County Jail, Valhalla, New York

Nov. 24, 2015

Nov. 24, 2015

Settlement Agreement

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Solitary confinement

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2007

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice, enforcing the rights of inmates at the Westchester County Jail.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Westchester County, County

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2015 - 2018

Content of Injunction:

Monitor/Master

Recordkeeping

Reporting

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Excessive force

Juveniles

Pepper/OC spray

Restraints : physical

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Affected Gender:

Female

Male

Medical/Mental Health:

Dental care

Medical care, general

Medication, administration of

Mental health care, general

Skin Infections

Suicide prevention

Tuberculosis

Wound care

Type of Facility:

Government-run