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1996 CRIPA Report


During Fiscal Year 1996, the Department continued to protect and promote the rights of people confined in publicly operated facilities throughout the nation pursuant to its authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.(1) This statute gives the Attorney General the authority to investigate conditions in public facilities and to take appropriate action where there is a pattern or practice of unlawful actions that deprive persons confined in the facilities of their constitutional or federal statutory rights. From May 1980, when CRIPA was enacted, through September 1996, the Department investigated conditions in 246 jails, prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, mental retardation and mental health facilities, and nursing homes. As a result of the Department's CRIPA efforts, tens of thousands of institutionalized persons who were living in dire, often life-threatening, conditions now receive adequate care and services.

The Attorney General has delegated day-to-day responsibility for CRIPA activities to the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division. Throughout Fiscal Year 1996, the Section continued its efforts to enforce CRIPA by initiating a number of new investigations, filing CRIPA complaints when warranted, entering into settlements to remedy unlawful conditions in institutions, and monitoring jurisdictions' compliance with the decrees.(2)

During the fiscal year, the Section was active in CRIPA matters and cases involving 128 facilities in twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia, as well as Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The Section initiated new investigations of seventeen facilities in six states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, monitored the implementation of consent decrees involving sixty-five facilities, and obtained ten contempt orders where jurisdictions failed to meet their responsibilities under consent decrees and other court orders. In addition, the Attorney General filed and settled four new CRIPA suits and moved to intervene in a fifth case. By focusing on statewide investigations and relief where warranted, the Section maximized its impact and increased its efficiency. In keeping with the Department's alternative dispute resolution initiative, the Section also increased its use of mediated settlement negotiations to resolve CRIPA matters.


Filing of CRIPA Complaints/ Resolution of Lawsuits

The Department filed four new CRIPA complaints during Fiscal Year 1996 that were resolved through settlement. The Department also settled a fifth case in which the United States intervened during Fiscal Year 1995. In addition, the Department filed a motion to intervene under CRIPA during Fiscal Year 1996 in an on-going class-action case but the court did not rule on this motion before the end of the fiscal year.

On November 13, 1995, the Department filed a complaint together with a consent decree in United States v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Civ. No. 3:95CV-757-S ((W.D. Ky.). This action was based on a CRIPA investigation of juvenile correctional facilities in Kentucky in which the Department found violations of the constitutional and federal statutory rights of juveniles.(3) To resolve this matter, Kentucky agreed to a consent decree that details the steps the State will take in all thirteen of its juvenile correctional facilities to protect the more than 400 juveniles confined to these facilities from abuse and injury; to provide adequate mental health treatment, medical services and education; to eliminate fire safety and sanitation hazards; to ensure adequate staffing, operational, and security procedures; to correct inappropriate isolation practices; and to provide adequate classification and segregation of juveniles, as well as post-discharge follow-up and aftercare. The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky approved the consent decree and entered it as an order on December 4, 1995; the court subsequently appointed a Court Monitor selected by the parties to monitor Kentucky's compliance with the consent decree.

On March 15, 1996, the Department filed a complaint together with a proposed consent decree in United States v. Tennessee, Civ. No.96-2312 GV (W.D. Tenn.), involving conditions at Memphis Mental Health Institute. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee approved the consent decree and entered it as an order on March 27, 1996. This action resolved the United States' findings, during the course of its CRIPA investigation of Memphis Mental Health Institute, that Tennessee was violating the constitutional and federal statutory rights of patients confined in the facility. The consent decree requires Tennessee to provide patients with adequate assessment, diagnosis, mental health treatment, medical care, discharge planning and aftercare services; and to maintain a sufficient number of qualified professional and direct care staff at the facility to carry out these requirements. The United States agreed to provide technical assistance through its experts during the early remedial phases to ensure that Tennessee achieves compliance with the decree. On March 4, 1996, the Department filed two lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the Commonwealth of Virginia. One of the cases involved unlawful conditions of confinement at Northern Virginia Training Center, a mental retardation facility in Fairfax, Virginia. United States v. Virginia, Civ. No. 96-283-A (E.D. Va.). The other case involved unlawful conditions at Eastern State Hospital and Hancock Geriatric Facility, facilities for persons with mental illness in Williamsburg, Virginia. United States v. Virginia, Civ. No. 96-2834-A (E.D. Va.). Both complaints were based on the Section's findings during its CRIPA investigation that Virginia was violating the constitutional and federal statutory rights of the individuals living in these facilities by, inter alia, failing to protect the residents from harm, failing to provide them with adequate medical and mental health care, failing to provide them with needed treatment and habilitation, using undue restraints, and failing to serve residents in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The Department filed suit because Virginia failed to correct these deficiencies voluntarily over a protracted period of time and it was unwilling to enter into a judicially enforceable settlement agreement to correct them. After the suit was filed, the Commonwealth agreed to resume settlement discussions that were mediated by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. These mediated negotiations produced a settlement several months later in both cases. Under the terms of the settlement, Virginia has agreed to implement comprehensive plans to address each of the deficient areas of care at the facilities. The suits were dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on July 18, 1996, with the court retaining jurisdiction to enforce the State's compliance with the plans. The United States also agreed to provide technical assistance during the early remedial phases to ensure that Virginia achieves compliance with its corrective action plans.

The United States District Court for the District of Southern Mississippi approved a consent decree on November 9, 1995 in Ranier and Unites States v. Jones, Civ. No. J78-0135(N) (S.D. Miss.), involving conditions of confinement at the Simpson County Jail in Mendenhall, Mississippi. The court granted the United States' motion to intervene in this class action on April 25, 1995, based upon the United States' findings during a CRIPA investigation that conditions at the jail violated inmates' constitutional rights. The consent decree requires Simpson County to take remedial steps to address deficiencies in the areas of fire safety, sanitation, medical care and suicide prevention.

Finally, on July 10, 1996, the United States moved to intervene in Johnson v Kurtz, Civ. No. 87-369-Civ-T-24-A (M.D. Fla.), a case involving G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, a psychiatric hospital housing approximately 450 persons with mental illness in Arcadia, Florida. The Department initiated a CRIPA investigation of the hospital in May 1995, based upon allegations that patients were suffering serious harm. The State denied the Department access to inspect the facility and refused to turn over requested documents. The Department conducted its investigation by collecting information available within the public domain, including an August 1995 report conducted by the Florida State Inspector General that acknowledged serious problems at G. Pierce Wood and surveys by the Health Care Financing Administration that identified similar deficiencies. On November 9, 1995, the Department issued a findings letter setting forth the supporting facts for its conclusion that conditions at the facility violate the constitutional and federal statutory rights of residents and specifying the minimum remedial measures to correct these violations. In the face of the State's continued refusal to grant access to the facility or to settle the matter, the Attorney General signed a motion to intervene in Johnson v. Kurtz. The court did not rule on this motion by the end of the fiscal year.

Compliance Evaluations and Enforcement Activities

During Fiscal Year 1996, the Special Litigation Section monitored defendants' compliance with CRIPA consent decrees and court orders designed to remedy unlawful conditions in sixty-five publicly operated facilities throughout the United States. These facilities included:

1. Mental retardation facilities: Southbury Training School (United States v. Connecticut (D. Conn.)); Howe Developmental Center (United States v. Illinois (N.D. Ill.)); Los Lunas Training School (United States v. New Mexico (D.N.M.)); Boswell Regional Center (United States v. Mississippi (S.D. Miss.)); Fairview Training Center (United States v. Oregon (D. Or.)); Embreeville Center (United States v. Pennsylvania (E.D. Pa.)); Arlington Developmental Center (United States v. Tennessee (W.D. Tenn.)); and Northern Virginia Training Center (United States v. Virginia (E.D. Va.)).

2. Mental health facilities: Guam Adult Mental Health Unit (United States v. Guam (D. Guam)); Hawaii State Hospital (United States v. Hawaii (D. Haw.)); Northville Regional Center (United States v. Michigan (E.D. Mich.)); Pilgrim Psychiatric Center (United States v. New York (E.D.N.Y.)); Memphis Mental Health Institute (United States v. Tennessee (W.D. Tenn.)); and Eastern State Hospital (United States v. Virginia (E.D. Va.)).

3. Nursing homes: D.C. Village (United States v. District of Colombia (D.D.C.)); and Hancock Geriatric Facility (United States v. Virginia (E.D. Va.)).

4. Juvenile Correctional Facilities: Essex County Youth House (United States v. Essex County (D.N.J.)); thirteen Kentucky correctional facilities (United States v. Kentucky (W.D. Ky.)); and eight Puerto Rican juvenile correctional facilities (United States v. Puerto Rico (D.P.R.)).

5. Jails: Crittenden County Jail (United States v. Crittenden County (E.D. Ark.)); Conecuh County Jail (Rooks and United States v. Herring (S.D. Al.)); Rosario Detention Center (United States v. Guam (D. Guam)); Alcorn County Jail (United States v. Alcorn County (N.D. Miss.)); Corinth City Jail (United States v. Corinth City (N.D. Miss.)); Grenada County Jail (United States v. Grenada County (N.D. Miss.)); Grenada City Jail (United States v. Grenada City (N.D. Miss.)); Tupelo City Jail (United States v. Tupelo City (N.D. Miss.)); Forest City Jail (United States v. Forest City (S.D. Miss.)); Forrest County Jail (United States v. Forrest County (S.D. Miss.)); Harrison County Jail (United States v. Harrison County (S.D. Miss.)); Jones County Jail (Crosby and United States v. Jones County (S.D. Miss.)); Neshoba County Jail (United States v. Neshoba County (S.D. Miss.)); Scott County Jail (United States v. Scott County (S.D. Miss.)); Simpson County Jail (Ranier and United States v. Jones (S.D. Miss.)); and Sunflower County Jail (United States v. Sunflower County (S.D. Miss.)).

6. Prisons: California Medical Facility (United States v. California (E.D. Ca.)); Michigan Reformatory, Marquette Branch Prison, State Prison of Southern Michigan, Engler Correctional Facility, Riverside Psychiatric Center, Huron Valley Mental Health, Huron Valley Men's Facility, and Western Wayne Correctional Facility (United States v. Michigan, (W.D. Mich.)); Guam Adult Correctional Facility (United States v. Guam (D. Guam)); and Golden Grove Adult Correctional Institution (United States v. Virgin Islands (D.V.I.)).

Enforcement Activities

The Department took enforcement action where state and local officials failed to meet their legal obligations under consent decrees and other court orders in CRIPA cases to improve conditions of confinement in the institutions they operate. As a result of the Department's enforcement actions, courts found jurisdictions in contempt in three cases during the fiscal year. Multiple contempt findings were entered in United States v. District of Columbia, Civ. No. 95-948(TFH) (D.D.C.), the Department's CRIPA case against the District of Columbia concerning conditions at D.C. Village, a nursing home housing approximately two hundred persons. In response to the Department's motion for a preliminary injunction, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia approved a stipulation between the parties in July 1995 that specified the corrective actions the District agreed to undertake. The court also appointed a Court Monitor to oversee the improvements. When the District failed repeatedly to carry out the remedial measures, the court held the District in contempt eight times during a seven month period between December 1995 and July 1996. When the District decided to close the nursing home, the court entered orders for further relief to ensure that all residents were transferred to alternative facilities or community placements based upon professional assessments of individuals.

In Evans and United States v. Barry, Civ. No. 76-293(SSH)) (D.D.C.), another action involving the District of Columbia, the court issued contempt findings on October 11, 1995.(4) The court also appointed a Special Master to address the District's continuing failure to comply with court orders designed to provide adequate services to former residents of Forest Haven (a mental retardation facility operated by the District), who were moved to community settings. On August 2, 1996, the court adopted the Special Master's Findings of Fact regarding the District's continuing violation of the court's orders and issued a remedial order detailing the steps the District must take to come into compliance with the orders.

In a CRIPA action involving Southbury Training School in Connecticut, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut held the State in contempt on June 19, 1996 for failing to comply with remedial requirements in a consent decree and subsequent court orders for further relief in United States v. Connecticut, Civ. No. 3:86CV-252(EBB) (D. Conn.). The court determined that a Special Master was necessary to evaluate conditions at the facility in which approximately 800 persons with mental retardation live, and to suggest ways to correct continuing deficiencies.(5)

The Department also filed a motion for contempt on December 14, 1995 in United States v. Tennessee, Civ. No. 92-2062-ML/A (W.D. Tenn.), involving the Arlington Developmental Center, based upon the State's continuing failure to comply with a consent decree and various court orders.(6) The Department subsequently resolved the motion by entering into a stipulation with Tennessee in which the defendants admitted they were in contempt and agreed to additional remedial measures to remedy their contempt. The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee approved the stipulation and entered it as an order on June 21, 1996.

The Department avoided filing enforcement actions in three additional CRIPA cases where jurisdictions agreed to stipulations to take additional steps to comply with outstanding court orders. On April 4, 1996, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey approved and ordered a stipulation in United States v. Essex County, Civ. No. 874829 (D.N.J.), involving the Essex County Youth House in Newark, New Jersey. The county agreed to provide adequate staffing, medical care, and basic supplies (such as clothing, sheets, blankets, and soap) to juveniles confined in the facility. On June 28, 1996, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii entered a stipulated order for further relief in United States v. Hawaii, Civ. No. 91-00137 DAE (D. Hi.), involving Hawaii State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Oahu. The State agreed to employ additional staff and to take measures to protect patients from harm. The State also agreed to hire independent experts to assist the hospital to address continuing problems with abuse, use of restraints and seclusion, and treatment and discharge plans. On June 28, 1996, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved and ordered a stipulation for further relief in United States v. New York, Civ. No. 93-4807 (SPATT) (E.D.N.Y.), involving Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood, New York. The State agreed to enhance patient safety and supervision, and to hire independent experts to assist the hospital in remedying continuing deficiencies in treatment plans and staffing.

Prison Litigation Reform Act

The Prison Litigation Reform Act [PLRA], 18 U.S.C. § 3626, which was enacted on April 26, 1996, affects the Section's activities in prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities. In particular, it establishes standards governing prospective relief involving these facilities. The Department has defended the constitutionality of the PLRA and has incorporated the PLRA's requirements in its CRIPA activities. In addition to applying the PLRA in new CRIPA decrees and court orders, the Special Litigation Section has evaluated its on-going CRIPA investigations and consent decrees in light of the statute.

Termination of CRIPA Consent Decrees

When jurisdictions comply with consent decree requirements and correct unlawful conditions in the institution, the Section joins defendants in a motion to dismiss the consent decree. During Fiscal Year 1996, courts dismissed four CRIPA cases based upon joint motions of the parties and partially dismissed a fifth case. The court dismissed United States v. Illinois (N.D. Ill.), involving conditions at Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park, Illinois on February 14, 1996. United States v. Michigan (E.D. Mich.), involving Northville Regional Psychiatric Center in Northville, Michigan, was dismissed on April 11, 1996. Rooks and United States v. Herring (S.D. Al.), involving conditions at the Conecuh County Jail, was dismissed on July 23, 1996 and Crosby and United States v. Jones County (S.D. Miss.), involving conditions at the Jones County jail, was dismissed on July 26, 1996. In addition, on July 3, 1996, the court granted a joint motion to dismiss major portions of the consent decree in United States v. Michigan (W.D. Mich.), involving eight prisons.

Responsiveness to Allegations of Illegal Conditions

During Fiscal Year 1996, the Special Litigation Section reviewed allegations of unlawful conditions of confinement in public facilities from a number of sources including individuals who live at the facilities and their relatives, staff and ex-staff of facilities, advocates, concerned citizens, media reports, and referrals from within the Department and other federal agencies. The Section reviewed 2740 incoming citizen letters and 360 incoming telephone complaints during the fiscal year. In addition, the Division responded to 110 inquiries from Congress and the White House.

The Section prioritized these allegations by focusing on facilities where allegations revealed systemic, serious deficiencies. In particular, with regard to mental health and mental retardation facilities, nursing homes, and juvenile correctional facilities, the Section focused on allegations that individuals were being abused and neglected; were not receiving adequate basic care and medical treatment or appropriate training and treatment programs; and were not being served in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet their needs as required by the ADA. With regard to jails and prisons, the Section placed emphasis on allegations of abuse (particularly sexual abuse in women's prisons), inadequate medical care and psychiatric services, and grossly unsanitary and other unsafe conditions. In accordance with the procedures established at the inception of the Section's CRIPA enforcement program, which were previously submitted to Congress, the Section prepared a justification memorandum for each new investigation and submitted it for approval by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights before initiating a formal investigation of a facility.

New CRIPA Investigations

The Department initiated CRIPA investigations of seventeen institutions during the fiscal year. These new investigations involved the following facilities:

  • Four Louisiana secure juvenile correctional facilities (Jetson Correctional Center for Youth in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Training Institute in Monroe, Louisiana Training Institute in Bridge City, and Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth in Tallulah);
  • Eight facilities in the Los Angeles County Jail system (Sybil Brand Jail, Men's Central, North Facility, South Facility, East Facility, North County Correctional Center, Twin Towers Correctional Facility and Century Regional Detention Center);
  • Beaumont Juvenile Correction Center, Powhattan, Virginia;
  • Orleans County Jail, Albion, New York;
  • Mercer County Detention Center, Trenton, New Jersey;
  • Washington County Detention Center, Hagerstown, Maryland; and
  • Central for Integral Services, a facility for people with mental retardation in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Findings Letters and Investigation Closures

The Department issued written findings of the results of its investigations, pursuant to Section 4 of CRIPA, 42 U.S.C. § 1997b, in nineteen facilities, including: five Arizona Women's Prisons in Phoenix, Arizona; five Maricopa County Jails in Phoenix, Arizona; G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital in Arcadia, Florida; Landmark Learning Center in Opa-Locka, Florida; Coffee County Jail in Douglas, Georgia; Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, Maryland; Chesapeake City Jail in Chesapeake, Virginia; Hampton City Jail in Hampton, Virginia; Newport News City Jail in Newport News, Virginia; Virginia Beach City Jail in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Fairfax, Virginia.

During the fiscal year, the Department closed investigations involving eleven facilities. The Department closed its CRIPA investigation of the Virginia Beach Jail when city officials achieved voluntary compliance with the remedial measures suggested by the Department. Four of the investigations were terminated when the jurisdiction closed the facility: Ashburn City Jail, Ashburn, Georgia; Great Oaks Center, Silver Spring, Maryland; Jackson-Hinds County Youth Detention Center, Jackson, Mississippi; and Marion County Jail, Marion, Mississippi. The Department terminated its investigation of six San Diego jails when authorities agreed to a consent decree in a private suit that resolved the concerns raised in the CRIPA investigation.

Technical Assistance

Where federal financial, technical, or other assistance is available to help jurisdictions correct deficiencies, the Department advises responsible public officials of the availability of such aid and arranges for such assistance, where appropriate. For example, the Department provided assistance through the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Programs (OJJDP) to officials operating juvenile detention facilities in Puerto Rico. As part of OJJDP's official auditing responsibilities, an evaluator reported on Humacao Detention Center and found filthy, overcrowded, and dangerous conditions of confinement for the children confined there. OJJDP offered to provide training to the Commonwealth's juvenile court judges to help them divert children, where appropriate, from detention facilities to group or foster homes and thereby alleviate some of the overcrowding. As part of the investigation of the Department's CRIPA investigation of the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility in Detroit, Michigan, the Department provided technical assistance to Wayne County officials to assist them in correcting deficiencies. The Special Litigation Section contacted OJJDP and arranged to have a juvenile justice expert review the programmatic plans proposed by Wayne County. In addition, the Department's Justice Management Division provided an architect to review proposed construction plans for a new juvenile detention facility in Wayne County.

The Department arranged to have experts from the National Institute of Correction provide jail officials with technical assistance and information about federal funding available to address deficiencies identified in CRIPA investigations of three Georgia jails, four Virginia jails, and a jail in New York. As a result of the Department's efforts, one of the Virginia jails achieved voluntary compliance. The Department also paid for an expert to provide technical assistance to a Georgia jail to assist the jail in correcting unlawful conditions identified in a CRIPA investigation. Similarly, the Department paid for a consultant to visit Tulsa County Jail in Oklahoma to review proposed new jail plans and provide recommendations to correct deficiencies. Other Departmental consultants have continued to provide technical information and consultation to institutional directors and their counsel regarding necessary improvements in a number of CRIPA investigations and consent decrees.

1. Fiscal year 1996 began on October 1, 1995 and ended on September 30, 1996. This report is submitted to Congress to supplement the Attorney General's report on Fiscal Year 1996 Department activities by providing additional details about CRIPA actions during the fiscal year pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997f.

2.  On September 6, 1996, the United States General Accounting Office released its report entitled Medicaid: Oversight of Institutions of the Mentally Retarded Should Be Strengthened to Senator Ron Wyden, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Post Office and Civil Service, Committee on Governmental Affairs. The General Accounting Office found that the Department has been more effective in identifying and addressing serious deficiencies in large public mental retardation facilities through its CRIPA program than state agencies have been through their Medicaid monitoring programs.

3.  Based upon the systemic nature of the problems, the Department also found violations of Section 210401 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141. This provision gives the Department authority to seek declaratory and equitable relief for a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct by, inter alia, "any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice."

4.  The Department is plaintiff-intervenor in this case, which was filed before CRIPA was enacted.

5.  The Special Master was not appointed before the end of the fiscal year. The State has appealed the contempt finding.

6.  This was the fourth contempt motion that the United States filed in this case.

Updated September 14, 2023