Case: Nelson v. Collins

1:77-00116 | U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Filed Date: Jan. 25, 1977

Closed Date: 1997

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1977, prisoners at the Maryland Penitentiary and the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, represented by the Prisoner Assistance Project, filed a Section 1983 class action suit in federal district court for the District of Maryland against the officials for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The suit alleged that the prison was overcrowded and that defendants' confined mentally ill inmates in isolation without adequate medical assistanc…

In 1977, prisoners at the Maryland Penitentiary and the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, represented by the Prisoner Assistance Project, filed a Section 1983 class action suit in federal district court for the District of Maryland against the officials for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The suit alleged that the prison was overcrowded and that defendants' confined mentally ill inmates in isolation without adequate medical assistance.

In 1978, the District Court (Judge C. Stanley Blair) held that double-celling and the confinement of mentally ill inmates in an isolated confinement section without adequate medical assistance constituted cruel and unusual punishment and ordered that the parties attempt to agree upon a plan to remedy the constitutional deficiencies. Nelson v. Collins, 455 F. Supp. 727 (D. Md. 1978). Defendants appealed and the Court of Appeals, having consolidated this case with Johnson v. Levine (see PC-MD-003), affirmed the lower court judgments, but remanded with instructions to incorporate defendants' new plan for decreasing overcrowding into a new decree. Johnson v. Levine, 588 F.2d 1378 (4th Cir. 1978). In the new decree, defendants were required to eliminate double-celling and limit the capacity of the Maryland House of Corrections.

Defendants were unable to meet the requirements of the new decree due to a large influx of prisoners, resulting in a finding by the District Court that they were in contempt. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeals consolidated the Johnson and Nelson cases with a third case, Washington v. Keller. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that defendants had made a ""good faith"" effort and were entitled to a modification of the decree. Nelson v. Collins, 659 F.2d 420 (4th Cir. 1981). In November 1985, the parties entered into a stipulation requiring defendants to limit the capacity and amount of double celling at the Maryland Penitentiary. In response to the construction of a new prison facility litigation renewed in 1995.

In 1997, the District Court (Judge William M. Nickerson) held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act was constitutional and required the immediate termination of the consent decrees and stipulations that had previously been approved by the court. The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information ends with the last reported decision in 1997.

Note: this case was consolidated with Johnson v. Levine (PC-MD-003) by the fourth circuit Court of Appeals in 1978. Johnson v. Levine, 588 F.2d 1378 (4th Cir. 1978).

Summary Authors

Eoghan Keenan (5/27/2005)

Related Cases

Johnson v. Galley, District of Maryland (1977)

People


Judge(s)

Blair, Charles Stanley (Maryland)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Ervin, Samuel James III (North Carolina)

Hall, Willard (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Murnaghan, Francis Dominic Jr. (Maryland)

Phillips, James Dickson Jr. (North Carolina)

Russell, Donald Stuart (South Carolina)

Sprouse, James Marshall (West Virginia)

Widener, Hiram Emory Jr. (Virginia)

Judge(s)

Blair, Charles Stanley (Maryland)

Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Virginia)

Ervin, Samuel James III (North Carolina)

Hall, Willard (Virginia)

Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (South Carolina)

Murnaghan, Francis Dominic Jr. (Maryland)

Phillips, James Dickson Jr. (North Carolina)

Russell, Donald Stuart (South Carolina)

Sprouse, James Marshall (West Virginia)

Widener, Hiram Emory Jr. (Virginia)

Winter, Harrison Lee (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Feldman, David H. (Maryland)

Nilson, George A. (Maryland)

Sachs, Stephen H. (Maryland)

Sharp, Clarence W. (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bekman, Paul D. (Maryland)

Boteler, Sandra D. (Maryland)

Brown, Warren A. (Maryland)

Burch, Francis B. (Maryland)

Caplis, Stephen B. (Maryland)

Coshnear, Lawrence B. (Maryland)

Elcano, Mary S. (Maryland)

Finan, W. Timothy (Maryland)

Fishman, Richard G. (Maryland)

Goodman, Grace (New York)

North, Richard L. (Maryland)

Pierson, W. Michel (Maryland)

Rubin, Gail (New York)

Seligman, Richard A. (Maryland)

Sonnenshein, Larry A. (New York)

Steele, Nevett Jr. (Maryland)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:77-00116

Reported Opinion

May 17, 1978

May 17, 1978

Order/Opinion

78-06416

78-06419

Reported Opinion

Johnson v. Levine

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Dec. 13, 1978

Dec. 13, 1978

Order/Opinion

81-06347

81-06368

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Sept. 4, 1981

Sept. 4, 1981

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated Sept. 5, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Maryland

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Solitary confinement

Key Dates

Filing Date: Jan. 25, 1977

Closing Date: 1997

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

prisoners at the Maryland Penitentiary and the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Maryland Penitentiary, Maryland Reception, Daignostic & Classification Center, 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: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1978 - 1997

Issues

General:

Assault/abuse by staff

Classification / placement

Counseling

Disciplinary procedures

Food service / nutrition / hydration

Sanitation / living conditions

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Affected Gender:

Male

Medical/Mental Health:

Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis

Mental health care, general

Type of Facility:

Government-run