Case: Detainees of Brooklyn House of Detention for Men v. Malcolm

1:73-cv-00261 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Filed Date: Feb. 26, 1973

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Case Summary

In February of 1973, this class action lawsuit was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, on behalf of individuals detained at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City. The plaintiffs sued New York City and its Commissioner of Correction. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Society, sought injunctive relief for the conditions of their incarceration. The plaintiffs' alleged violati…

In February of 1973, this class action lawsuit was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, on behalf of individuals detained at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City. The plaintiffs sued New York City and its Commissioner of Correction. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Society, sought injunctive relief for the conditions of their incarceration. The plaintiffs' alleged violation of their constitutional rights on two fronts: overcrowding and the jail's proscription of all contact visits.

To address overcrowding, the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men had resorted to "double celling," a practice of housing two individuals in a single-occupancy cell. Similar claims made by plaintiffs at the Queens House of Detention were joined with this case for adjudication. On July 31, 1974, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Orrin Grimmell Judd) held that double celling violated detainees' equal protection and due process, including privacy, rights and ordered the city discontinue the practice. On October 2, 1974, the court vacated its July 31 order and substituted in its place a new order that permitted double celling in certain, enumerated circumstances. The court also ordered that double celling broadly be eliminated by March 1, 1975.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals (District Judge John Reis Bartels, sitting by designation) affirmed the district court's findings of fact and legal conclusions. 520 F.2d 329. In its decision, the Court of Appeals relied on Rhem v. Malcolm, 507 F.2d 333 (2d Cir. 1974), which addressed similar concerns at the Manhattan House of Detention ("the Tombs"). The Court of Appeals adjudged the order too broad, however, because it reached all incarcerated individuals, not just those awaiting trial. The Court of Appeals also held that federal courts could order the city to release some of the plaintiffs, but could not mandate construction of new jails.

The plaintiffs' second claim, that their constitutionally protected rights were violated by the jail's policy prohibiting contact with detainees, was heard independently. The jail claimed that its policy facilitated visitation and assured jail security. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Henry Bramwell) held that the jail's broad ban on contact visits was an impermissible violation of the plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights. 421 F. Supp. 832. The district court reasoned that jail security could be maintained by proscribing contact visits only for the detainees it classified as security risks. The district court (Judge Bramwell) ordered the city to submit a plan for classification and contact visits within ninety days and allotted fourteen days for the plaintiffs to respond. A conference between the parties was scheduled for February 3, 1977.

At some point in September 1986, the parties entered a stipulation that required the defendants, as a result of delays in replacing some windows at the detention house, to invest "substantial additional" resources toward recreation, education, and other programs. The court then entered an order on May 17, 1988, that detailed concrete steps the defendants would take toward effectuating that stipulation, including requirements relating to educational programs and the furnishing of additional equipment.

We do not have the docket, pleadings, or record of any subsequent proceedings, but according to Legal Aid Society of New York, at some point the matter was consolidated with Benjamin v. Malcolm for enforcement purposes; see that case for more details for subsequent decades of litigation.

Summary Authors

Elizabeth Chilcoat (5/18/2006)

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan (5/24/2023)

Related Cases

Rhem v. Malcolm, Southern District of New York (1970)

Benjamin v. Horn, Southern District of New York (1975)

Ambrose v. Malcolm, Southern District of New York (1976)

People


Judge(s)

Bartels, John Ries (New York)

Bramwell, Henry (New York)

Attorney for Plaintiff

Berger, Joel (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Herman, Steven A. (New York)

Attorney for Defendant

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Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

74-02427

74-02482

Reported Opinion

Detainees of the Brooklyn Ho. of Det. v. Malcom

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

July 31, 1975

July 31, 1975

Order/Opinion

520 F.2d 520

1:73-cv-00261

Reported Opinion

Oct. 8, 1976

Oct. 8, 1976

Order/Opinion

421 F.Supp. 421

1:73-cv-00261

Proposed Partial Final Judgment by Consent

May 15, 1979

May 15, 1979

Settlement Agreement

1:79-cv-04913

Stipulation and Order on Enhancement of Program Activities

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

May 17, 1988

May 17, 1988

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated March 26, 2024, 3:11 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 26, 1973

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

detainees at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Brooklyn House of Detention for Men, City

Facility Type(s):

Government-run

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Freedom of speech/association

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Available Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1974 - None

Issues

General/Misc.:

Classification / placement

Affected Sex/Gender(s):

Male

Jails, Prisons, Detention Centers, and Other Institutions:

Crowding / caseload

Visiting