CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, January 29, 2007

Philly's Overcrowded Jails violate the Constitution

From's jails are so overcrowded and dangerous that they violate the constitutional rights of inmates, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

In a scathing 76-page ruling, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ordered the city to immediately provide prisoners with clean cells, toilets, showers, beds and medical attention, as well as to dramatically reduce the time that suspects are kept in police lockups.

City jails will again be put under court monitoring - as they have been for most of the last 35 years.

Surrick, who toured the city's Curran Fromhold Correction Facility last month, said the "unconstitutional conditions... required detainees to sit and sleep on concrete floors."

"The conditions include the failure to provide beds and bedding, the failure to provide material for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower facilities, unsanitary and unavailable toilet facilities, the failure to provide for the medical needs of detainees..."

Yesterday's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of 11 prisoners by University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky. The suit was the latest to be lodged against the city prison system. In 1971, Rudovsky filed a similar suit and the city jails were put under court monitoring that ended in 2001.

"The city is ordered to immediately take affirmative steps to redress the unconstitutional conditions," the ruling reads. It also gave Philadelphia 15 days to meet with the plaintiffs to work out details on court monitoring of the jails. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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