Case: Rhem v. Malcolm

1:70-cv-03962 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Filed Date: Sept. 10, 1970

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1970, overcrowding and trial delays at the Manhattan House of Detention for Men (MHD), a facility in New York City used to incarcerate individuals awaiting trial, led to dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Outbreaks of disturbances amongst incarcerated people occurred in August and October of that year. After these riots, the plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that their conditions of con…

In 1970, overcrowding and trial delays at the Manhattan House of Detention for Men (MHD), a facility in New York City used to incarcerate individuals awaiting trial, led to dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Outbreaks of disturbances amongst incarcerated people occurred in August and October of that year.

After these riots, the plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that their conditions of confinement violated the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs further alleged that the practice of opening and inspecting their incoming mail infringed their constitutional right to communicate freely with their attorneys and that the lack of readily-accessible rules and regulations governing their and correction officers' conduct deprived them of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Represented by the Legal Aid Society of New York, they sought injunctive relief to address unsanitary conditions, the lack of light and air, mistreatment by guards, arbitrary disciplinary procedures, inadequate medical care, no recreation, and restrictive visiting and mail privileges.

Shortly after the litigation was filed on November 6, 1970, Judge Walter Roe Mansfield granted the plaintiff's motion for class certification. It defined the class as all people incarcerated at MHD.

On March 17, 1971, Judge Mansfield denied the defendant's motion to dismiss and granted a preliminary injunction that enjoined defendant jail officials from interfering with private consultations between incarcerated people and their counsel in which jail officials were parties. 326 F.Supp. 681. Judge Mansfield also ordered MHD to adopt a comprehensive set of rules and to make them fully available to all incarcerated people.

After negotiations between the parties, a consent decree was entered on August 2, 1973, regarding overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care. The remaining issues were brought to trial before the district court.

As a result of the trial, on January 7, 1974, Judge Morris E. Lasker held that the pretrial detainees could not be confined under conditions more rigorous than a convicted person. 371 F.Supp. 594. Judge Lasker further held that the unnecessary imposition of maximum security confinement violated plaintiffs' rights to due process, that the city would be required to provide contact visits, that the exercise and recreation programs did not meet constitutional standards, that the institution did not provide a tolerable living environment for the plaintiffs and that they were entitled to certain due process rights with respect to discipline.

On July 11, 1974, Judge Lasker found that the jail's overcrowding had improved but the defendants had not complied with other parts of the consent decree. He ordered that defendants close MHD within 30 days unless a plan was submitted by defendant officials relating to the elimination of the previously found unconstitutional conditions at the facility. 377 F.Supp. 995. The defendants immediately appealed this order to the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Judge Wilfred Feinberg, affirmed Judge Lasker's findings of unconstitutional conditions but remanded the case for reconsideration of the deadlines imposed for restructuring the institution. The appellate court reasoned that the remedies required substantial physical changes to a jail located in the heart of a large metropolitan area and the city had limited fiscal resources. 507 F.2d 333 (2nd Cir. 1974).

On remand, Judge Lasker held that the plaintiffs, who had been transferred to facilities at Rikers Island, were entitled to the same constitutional standards regardless of where they were confined on February 20, 1975. 389 F.Supp. 964 (S.D.N.Y. 1975). Judge Lasker also found that the city had an obligation to complete necessary head counts and housecleaning operations within a reasonable period of time and that the 50-minute per week exercise period, which extended from October through May, was constitutionally inadequate. Judge Lasker later amended the judgment to cover a classification system, the plaintiffs' ability to leave their cells, and visitation. 396 F.Supp. 1195 (S.D.N.Y. 1975).

The defendant appealed the findings in Judge Lasker's amended judgment, and on December 5, 1975, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (per curiam) affirmed Judge Lasker's judgment. 527 F.2d 1041 (2nd Cir. 1975). The Court of Appeals held that ordering MHD to provide contact visits for all detainees without first holding a full hearing on the physical and financial difficulties posed by such order, was not an abuse of the lower court's discretion, and an optional "lock-in" program was constitutionally mandated. After proposing extensive improvements to the MHD, the city of New York moved to modify the court order to permit its use as a general detention facility.

On April 11, 1977, Judge Lasker held that the proposed plan would not sufficiently remedy defects in the physical environment of the MHD to permit use of the facility for pre-detention of a general population, the plan was inadequate with respect to active and outdoor recreation, and the plan failed to provide for the adequate segregation. 432 F.Supp. 769 (S.D.N.Y. 1977).

The docket in this case was not available on PACER, and accordingly, we do not have further information on the case.

Summary Authors

Tom Madison (2/24/2006)

Richard Jolly (11/4/2014)

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan (8/10/2022)

Related Cases

Detainees of Brooklyn House of Detention for Men v. Malcolm, Eastern District of New York (1973)

People


Judge(s)

Feinberg, Wilfred (New York)

Gurfein, Murray Irwin (New York)

Lasker, Morris Edward (Massachusetts)

Mansfield, Walter Roe (New York)

Timbers, William Homer (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Berger, Joel (New York)

Carr, Edward Q. Jr. (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Herman, Steven A. (New York)

Mushlin, Michael B. (New York)

Judge(s)

Feinberg, Wilfred (New York)

Gurfein, Murray Irwin (New York)

Lasker, Morris Edward (Massachusetts)

Mansfield, Walter Roe (New York)

Timbers, William Homer (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Berger, Joel (New York)

Carr, Edward Q. Jr. (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Herman, Steven A. (New York)

Mushlin, Michael B. (New York)

Neisser, Eric (New York)

Shapiro, Barbara A. (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Berman, David H. (New York)

Bernikow, Leonard (New York)

Buchsbaum, Stanley (New York)

Burke, Adrian P. (New York)

Gardens, Kew (New York)

Lefkowitz, Louis J. (New York)

London, Alan (New York)

Nachazel, John (New York)

Nespole, James (New York)

Rankin, J. Lee (New York)

Redlich, Norman (New York)

Reifler, Margery Evans (New York)

Richland, W. Bernard (New York)

Sheridan, Kevin (New York)

Tobias, Donald J. (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:70-cv-03962

[Opinion]

Rhem v. McGrath

Sept. 22, 1970

Sept. 22, 1970

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Order

Rhem v. McGrath

Nov. 16, 1970

Nov. 16, 1970

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Reported Opinion

Rhem v. McGrath

326 F.Supp. 681, 1971 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 14169

March 17, 1971

March 17, 1971

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

[Order]

Rhem v. McGrath

May 10, 1971

May 10, 1971

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

[Order]

Rhem v. McGrath

July 22, 1971

July 22, 1971

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Order

Aug. 2, 1973

Aug. 2, 1973

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Reported Opinion

371 F.Supp. 594, 1974 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 12938

Jan. 7, 1974

Jan. 7, 1974

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Judgment

March 21, 1974

March 21, 1974

Order/Opinion

1:70-cv-03962

Memorandum

377 F.Supp. 995, 1974 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 7674

July 11, 1974

July 11, 1974

Order/Opinion

74-02072

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

507 F.2d 333, 1974 U.S.App.LEXIS 6136

Nov. 8, 1974

Nov. 8, 1974

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 14, 2022, 3 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Sept. 10, 1970

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Inmates of the Manhattan House of Detention

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Manhattan House of Detention for Men (""""The Tombs"""") (New York City), Private Entity/Person

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Order Duration: 1971 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Implement complaint/dispute resolution process

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Administrative segregation

Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students

Classification / placement

Disciplinary segregation

Mail

Recreation / Exercise

Sanitation / living conditions

Totality of conditions

Visiting

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Type of Facility:

Government-run