Case: Dohner v. McCarthy

2:83-cv-07587 | U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Filed Date: Nov. 22, 1983

Closed Date: Oct. 9, 1985

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Inmates at the California Men's Colony (CMC) filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against state correctional officials on behalf of all inmates in CMC's East facility, challenging conditions due to overcrowding. The inmates, represented by attorneys with the the ACLU's Los Angeles office, specifically alleged that double-celling, conversion of day rooms into dormitories, overcrowding, insufficient staff, deteriorating housing, programs, …

Inmates at the California Men's Colony (CMC) filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against state correctional officials on behalf of all inmates in CMC's East facility, challenging conditions due to overcrowding. The inmates, represented by attorneys with the the ACLU's Los Angeles office, specifically alleged that double-celling, conversion of day rooms into dormitories, overcrowding, insufficient staff, deteriorating housing, programs, classifications and facilities violated their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. They also alleged a liberty interest in visitation, medical care and work protected by the 14th Amendment. The complaints arose with the implementation of double-celling at CMC to accommodate more prisoners. When double-celling was first instituted at CMC, the facility was running at about 102% of capacity. By June 1985, the population swelled to 159% of design capacity. Further plans for double-celling would have the facility running at 179.5% of design optimum. The inmates sought an injunction that would freeze intake of new prisoners and force the facility to enter into a court-monitored plan to increase staffing.

The District Court (Judge Pamela Ann Rymer) denied the inmates' motion for a preliminary injunction on May 31, 1984. The denial was affirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unpublished memorandum.

After the class was certified, trial was held in two installments in July and August 1985. More than 50 inmates and numerous correctional officers and experts testified, and Judge Rymer toured the facility three times. Judge Rymer issued her order, with detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law on October 9, 1985 denying relief to the inmates. Dohner v. McCarthy, 635 F.Supp. 408 (C.D. Cal. 1985). Although the court found that ""the inmates at CMC have been and still are subjected to an ordeal which comes close to the brink of a constitutional violation,"" the court nevertheless concluded that the double-celling, overcrowding, medical care, sanitation, food, clothing and safety did not violate the Eighth Amendment. Moreover, the court found that inmates did not enjoy a liberty interest in medical and mental health treatment, work credits or visitation.

The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information is limited to the court's published opinion.

Summary Authors

Denise Lieberman (10/17/2005)

People


Judge(s)

Rymer, Pamela Ann (California)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hagar, John H. Jr. (California)

Okrand, Fred (California)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

De Nicola, Donald E. (California)

Frederick, Carol S. (California)

Judge(s)

Rymer, Pamela Ann (California)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hagar, John H. Jr. (California)

Okrand, Fred (California)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

De Nicola, Donald E. (California)

Frederick, Carol S. (California)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

635 F.Supp. 408, 1985 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 15090

Oct. 9, 1985 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Managing Prison Conditions-of-Confinement Litigation: Lessons for California Administrators

Anthony C. Newland

Jan. 1, 1989 None

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: California

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 22, 1983

Closing Date: Oct. 9, 1985

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

inmates at the California Men's Colony

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

California Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief denied

Issues

General:

Classification / placement

Food service / nutrition / hydration

Recreation / Exercise

Sanitation / living conditions

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Visiting

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Type of Facility:

Government-run