University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Wilson v. Kelley PC-GA-0004
Docket / Court 11647 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions, brought a civil rights law suit through counsel affiliated in various ways with the ACLU in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against all the state's prison and jail ... read more >
Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions, brought a civil rights law suit through counsel affiliated in various ways with the ACLU in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against all the state's prison and jail officials alleging violations of their Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the complaint sought (1) to abolish racial segregation in all jails and penal institutions in Georgia; (2) to prevent the alleged discrimination in the employment of blacks at penal institutions and as sheriffs in Georgia; and (3) to abolish all county public works camps in Georgia. A three-judge district court panel awarded relief to desegregate the penal facilities, but denied the remaining relief sought. Wilson v. Kelley, 294 F.Supp 1005 (N.D. Ga. 1968) (Judge Sidney O. Smith).

Georgia law segregated inmates on the basis of race. Inmates not in the state system were segregated as a matter of custom. In light of a recent Supreme Court decision, the district court held that this type of racial segregation, and therefore the statutes, violated the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered the complete integration of all city and county jails, county public works camps, state correctional institutions and juvenile facilities within six months, on or before January 1, 1969. The court said that prison officials could take racial tensions into account concerning security and discipline, but that they could only do so when acting in good faith in response to some actual evidence.

The district court panel refused to grant relief on the other two requests. First, despite evidence that the majority of inmates were black and that the overwhelming majority of corrections jobs were filled by whites, the court dismissed plaintiffs' second claim reasoning that there was not a proper class of plaintiffs nor a proper defendant class representative in the case. Specifically, none of the members of the plaintiff class had ever applied for work in a correctional facility and they failed to show that a member of the defendant class could grant the relief requested. In a separate opinion, another judge dissented, arguing that plaintiffs were a proper class because they were affected by the hiring practices. (Judge Tuttle, concurring in part and dissenting in part).

The court also rejected plaintiffs' claim that the work camps constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and involuntary servitude under the Thirteenth Amendment because they offered only physical labor and not academic and trade programs like other facilities. The court reasoned that plaintiffs were not a representative class, as some prisoners at the work camp might prefer that assignment, and that there was not a clear abuse of discretion that would warrant disregarding the longstanding policy of courts to not interfere in prison administration and discipline.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in a per curiam judgment without opinion. Wilson v. Kelley, 393 U.S. 266 (1968).

Although the docket for this case is not available on PACER, activity continued after the Supreme Court decision. According to an August 11, 1975 memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigations from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the United States became a party intervenor in the case in 1973 for purposes of enforcement. Since that time, the memo states that United States had brought enforcement actions against five Georgia counties and that private plaintiffs had also brought enforcement actions. The memo requested the assistance of the FBI to determine if jails not yet investigated were in compliance with the 1968 court order. One such investigation, concluded with an FBI report dated September 14, 1976, revealed that one facility became integrated as a result of the Justice Departments' out of court efforts.

Sherrie Waldrup - 03/06/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Race discrimination
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Georgia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se Unknown
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 1968
Case Closing Year 1968
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
N.D. Ga.
Order of Dismissal (294 F.Supp. 1005)
PC-GA-0004-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Supreme Court
Memorandum Decision (393 U.S. 266)
PC-GA-0004-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
N.D. Ga.
Memorandum Requesting FBI Inspection
PC-GA-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
not recorded
Notice to Close File
PC-GA-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Douglas, William Orville (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Hooper, Frank Arthur (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
Smith, Sidney Oslin Jr. (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
White, Byron Raymond (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boult, Reber F. Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Brent, John Wm. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Garbus, Martin (New York) show/hide docs
Jones, P. Walter (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
King, C. B. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Kinoy, Arthur (New York) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Moore, Howard Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Morgan, Charles Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Rindskopf, Peter E. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Wulf, Melvin L. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Defendant's Lawyers Bolton, Arthur K. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Bryan, W. Wheeler (Georgia) show/hide docs
Evans, Alfred L. Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Ferguson, John T. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Gordon, Marion O. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Hartman, Don L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Hill, Harold N. Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Hinchey, John W. (Georgia) show/hide docs
Robins, Mathew (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0004-0005 | PC-GA-0004-0006
Sheats, Harold (Georgia) show/hide docs
Twitty, Frank S. Sr. (Georgia) show/hide docs

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