1997 CRIPA Report


The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq., gives the Attorney General the authority to investigate conditions in public facilities and to take appropriate action if a pattern or practice of unlawful actions deprive persons confined in the facilities of their constitutional or federal statutory rights.(1) From May 1980, when CRIPA was enacted, through September 1997, the Department has investigated conditions in 283 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. In Fiscal Year 1997, the Section initiated new investigations, filed lawsuits when warranted, entered into settlements to remedy unlawful conditions in institutions, monitored jurisdictions' compliance with the settlements, and closed investigations and terminated consent decrees when appropriate.(2) During the fiscal year, the Section was active in CRIPA matters and cases involving 164 facilities in 30 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands.(3) The Section initiated new investigations of 34 facilities in 15 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, continued its investigations of 51 additional facilities, and monitored the implementation of consent decrees involving 73 facilities. In addition, the Attorney General filed six new CRIPA suits; four were resolved by settlement and two remain in litigation. In keeping with the statutory requirements of CRIPA and the Attorney General's initiative, alternative dispute resolution techniques, including negotiation and mediation, were used to resolve a number of CRIPA matters both before and after CRIPA cases were filed. By focusing on statewide investigations and relief where warranted, the Section maximized its impact and increased its efficiency.


Filing of CRIPA Complaints/ Resolution of Lawsuits

The Department filed four CRIPA cases during Fiscal Year 1997 involving eight facilities that were resolved through simultaneous filing of a complaint and settlement agreement. Two additional cases involving six facilities were filed during the fiscal year, and are proceeding in discovery.

On November 15, 1996, the Department filed a complaint and settlement agreement in United States v. Tennessee (M.D. Tenn.) concerning the conditions of care in four institutions for persons with mental retardation: Clover Bottom Developmental Center and Harold Jordan Center in Nashville; Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville; and Nat T. Winston Developmental Center in Bolivar. The United States' case was consolidated with a class action lawsuit filed by People First of Tennessee against the Clover Bottom Developmental Center and the settlement agreement was signed by the class plaintiffs, the State of Tennessee, and the United States. The settlement agreement resulted from negotiations that were mediated by a magistrate judge in the United States district court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Following a fairness hearing, the court granted its approval of the settlement on July 3, 1997, with the condition that the parties continue to develop certain specifics of the agreement. The major elements of the settlement include requiring the State to: provide adequate and appropriate care and services (e.g., protection from harm, adequate medical and psychiatric care, behavioral treatment, and training) in the institutions and in the community; assess the needs of each institutionalized person, including the appropriateness of community placement, and provide adequate community services to individuals whom professionals determine are better served in the community; establish an adequate system of supports and services in the community, including emergency respite care and access to health care specialists, as well as a system of informing and involving family members and relevant community organizations; adhere to the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; protect the First Amendment rights of individuals covered by the agreement; establish an office of investigations to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse in the institutions and in the community; and establish a program for monitoring and enforcement of the settlement, including: (1) an independent panel of experts to review and report on compliance at least every six months and to review each individual placement into the community; (2) periodic reporting by the State; and (3) quarterly status conferences before the magistrate judge who mediated the settlement. Together with an earlier CRIPA case involving Arlington Developmental Center in Arlington, Tennessee, the Department has served as the catalyst for statewide relief in all five publicly operated mental retardation facilities in Tennessee.

On March 10, 1997, the Department filed United States v. State of Michigan ( E.D. Mich.) to protect the constitutional rights of inmates housed at the Crane and Scott Correctional Facilities. The complaint alleges that female inmates are subjected to sexual misconduct by correctional officers and staff, including sexual relationships, sexual assaults, sexual touching and fondling, and, without good reason, frequent, prolonged, close-up and prurient viewing during dressing, showering and use of toilet facilities. The complaint also alleges that Michigan does not provide adequate medical and mental health care to inmates in the two facilities. The Attorney General authorized the filing of this action after lengthy efforts to resolve this matter were unsuccessful. On June 5, 1997, the district court denied the State's motions to dismiss the lawsuit. The parties are currently engaged in discovery.

On March 12, 1997, the Department filed United States v. Arizona (D. Ariz.), which alleges that inmates in Arizona four women's prisons (Arizona Center for Women, ASPC Flemenco, ASPC Tucson (Manzanita unit), and ASPC Perryville (Santa Maria unit)) are subjected to sexual misconduct and unlawful invasions of privacy by staff. Like United States v. Michigan, this CRIPA action was filed after concerted efforts to resolve the matter were unsuccessful. On July 10, 1997, the court denied Arizona's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The parties are currently proceeding with discovery.

On April 4, 1997, a complaint and settlement agreement were filed in United States v. Wisconsin (W.D. Wisc.) concerning the conditions of care in the Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Union Grove and the Central Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Madison. The settlement agreement was signed and entered as an order of the court on April 10, 1997. Among other things, the settlement agreement requires the State to: provide adequate care and services (e.g., protection from harm, adequate medical and psychiatric care, behavioral treatment, and training) in the institutions; ensure that the institutions employ adequate numbers of qualified professional and non-professional staff to meet the needs of the residents; assess the needs of each institutionalized person, including the appropriateness of community placement, and provide adequate community services to individuals whom professionals determine should be served in the community; and adhere to the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The settlement agreement also establishes a panel of three experts (a physician, psychiatrist and psychologist), agreed upon by the parties, to evaluate the State's compliance with the agreement.

On June 10, 1997, the Department filed a complaint together with a settlement agreement and remedial plan in United States v. Virginia (E.D. Va.), involving conditions at the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Fairfax County. On the same date, the court approved the settlement and dismissed the action pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Procedure. The court specifically retained jurisdiction, however, to enforce the State's compliance with the settlement agreement and the remedial plan. Under the terms of the settlement, Virginia has agreed 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 Virginia achieves compliance with the settlement. The settlement agreement requires Virginia to implement the remedial plan by January 1999.

On August 20, 1997, the United States filed a complaint simultaneously with a consent decree in United States v. Clay County, Georgia (M.D. Ga.) concerning conditions at the Clay County Jail. The court approved the consent decree on August 26, 1997. The consent decree comports with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. §3626, and requires Clay County to take remedial steps to address deficiencies in the areas of fire safety, sanitation, medical care and suicide prevention.

Compliance Evaluations and Enforcement Activities

During Fiscal Year 1997, the Special Litigation Section monitored defendants' compliance with CRIPA consent decrees, other court orders, and settlement agreements designed to remedy unlawful conditions in 73 publicly operated facilities throughout the United States.(4) These facilities are:

1. Mental retardation facilities: Southbury Training School (United States v. Connecticut (D. Conn.)); 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.)); Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley Developmental Center, Nat T. Winston Developmental Center, and Harold Jordan Center (United States v. Tennessee (M.D. Tenn.)); Northern Virginia Training Center (United States v. Virginia (E.D. Va.)); and Southern Wisconsin Developmental Center and Central Developmental Center (United States v. Wisconsin (W.D. Wis.)).

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

3. Nursing homes: D.C. Village (United States v. District of Columbia (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.)); Clay County Jail (United States v. Clay County, Georgia (M.D. Ga.)); 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.)); Guam Adult Correctional Facility (United States v. Guam (D. Guam)); 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.)); Montana State Prison (United States v. Montana (D. Mont.)); 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. Based on the Department's motion and an evidentiary hearing, the court entered an order on August 21, 1997 in United States v. Tennessee, Civ. No. 92-2062-MI/A (W.D. Tenn.), requiring Tennessee officials to implement their Community Plan for West Tennessee. The Plan sets forth the steps Tennessee will take to ensure appropriate community placements in the western part of the State. The State agreed to develop the Plan after admitting it was in contempt of prior orders in this case involving Arlington Developmental Center, a mental retardation facility in Arlington, Tennessee. In addition to requiring the State to implement its Plan, the court adopted the Department's request to enhance monitoring of community placements and ordered the Court Monitor to review and approve all community placements before and after any residents are transferred from Arlington Developmental Center.

On June 13, 1997, the Second Circuit rejected the State's challenge to the district court's June 19, 1996 order holding the State of Connecticut in contempt 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.) involving Southbury Training School, a mental retardation facility in Southbury, Connecticut, with approximately 800 residents. On July 14, 1997, the district court appointed a Special Master to evaluate conditions at the facility and to suggest ways to correct continuing deficiencies.

During Fiscal Year 1997, the Department also filed several enforcement actions and participated in hearings before the Special Master in Evans and United States v. Barry, Civ. No. 76-293(SSH)) (D.D.C.) , 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.(5)

Prison Litigation Reform Act

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3626, which was enacted on April 26, 1996, covers prospective relief in prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities. The Department has defended the constitutionality of the PLRA and has incorporated the PLRA's requirements in its CRIPA activities. The Special Litigation Section has applied the PLRA requirements to the new remedies it seeks, such as the complaint and settlement in United States v. Clay County, Georgia (M.D. Ga.). In addition, the Section has evaluated all on-going CRIPA investigations, as well as all consent decrees and litigated orders in its active cases, 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 1997, courts dismissed six CRIPA cases based upon joint motions of the parties: United States v. California (N.D. Cal.), involving conditions at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California, was dismissed on February 14, 1997; United States v. District of Columbia (D.D.C.), involving conditions at D.C. Village nursing home, was dismissed on May 14, 1997; United States v. Neshoba County (S.D. Miss.), involving conditions at the Neshoba County Jail in Mississippi, was dismissed on May 27, 1997; United States v. Grenada City (N.D. Miss.) involving conditions at the Grenada City Jail in Mississippi, was dismissed on June 16, 1997; United States v. New Mexico (D.N.M.), involving conditions at Los Lunas Training School in New Mexico, was dismissed on September 27, 1997: and United States v. Corinth City (N.D. Miss.) involving conditions at Corinth City Jail was dismissed on August 11, 1997.

Responsiveness to Allegations of Illegal Conditions

During Fiscal Year 1997, 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 received 3160 incoming citizen letters and 400 incoming telephone complaints during the fiscal year. In addition, the Division responded to 85 inquiries from Congress.

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 and nursing homes, the Section focused on allegations that individuals were being abused and neglected; were not receiving adequate basic medical care and appropriate training and treatment programs; and were not being served in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet their needs as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. With regard to juvenile correctional facilities, the Section focused on allegations of abuse, inadequate mental health and medical care, and failure to provide adequate rehabilitation and education, including special education services. 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 34 institutions during the fiscal year. These new investigations involved the following facilities:

  • Bergen Pines County Hospital, a nursing home and psychiatric hospital in Paramus, New Jersey;
  • Central State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital near Petersburg, Virginia;
  • Four juvenile and adult jails in Owensboro, Kentucky (Daviess County Detention Center, Harold Taylor Restricted Custody Facility, E. Robert Goebel Secure Juvenile Detention Facility, and Louis Johnson Youth Alternative Center);
  • Dickens County Correctional Center, an adult jail in Spur, Texas;
  • Eleven Georgia juvenile detention facilities (Dekalb Regional Youth Detention Center, Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center, Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center, Griffin Regional Youth Detention Center, Gwinnett Regional Youth Detention Center, Rome Regional Youth Detention Center, Ireland Youth Detention Center, Macon Youth Detention Center, Irwin Youth Detention Center, Davisboro Youth Detention Center, Lee-Arrendale Prison);
  • Greenville County Detention Center, an adult jail in Greenville, South Carolina;
  • Hamilton County Nursing Home in Chattanooga, Tennessee;
  • Hammond Developmental Center, a mental retardation facility in Hammond, Louisiana;
  • Holly Center, a mental retardation facility in Salisbury, Maryland;
  • Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in SanFrancisco, California;
  • Lakin State Hospital, a nursing home in Lakin, West Virginia;
  • New Castle State Developmental Center, a mental retardation facility in New Castle, Indiana;
  • New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, a residential school for students with visual disabilities in Alamogordo, New Mexico;
  • Five mental retardation facilities in Puerto Rico (Centro de Servicios Multiples de Camaseyes, Hogar de Grupo Las Mesas, Facilidad de Cuidado Intermedio Cayey, Centro de Reeducacion para Adultos, Centro de Servicios Multiples Rosario Bellmer);
  • Scioto Joint Correctional Complex, a juvenile correctional facility in Delaware, Ohio; and
  • Yavapai County Jail, adult jails in Prescott and Camp Verde, Arizona.
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 18 facilities, including: eight Los Angeles County jails in Los Angeles, California; four Louisiana secure juvenile correctional facilities; Washington County Detention Center in Hagerstown, Maryland; Mercer County Detention Center in Trenton, New Jersey; Philadelphia Nursing Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Center for Integral Services, in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico; Hamilton County Nursing Home in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Central State Hospital, near Petersburg, Virginia.

During the fiscal year, the Department closed investigations involving two facilities. The Department closed its CRIPA investigations of Onondaga County Jail in Syracuse, New York and Vision Quest Detention Facility in Sandy Creek, Pennsylvania when the facilities achieved voluntary compliance with the remedial measures suggested by the Department.

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 assistance, where appropriate. For example, the Department provided assistance to officials operating four secure juvenile correctional facilities in Louisiana through federal training programs offered by the Training and Assistance Center of the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Programs and the National Institute of Corrections. The Department provided technical assistance to the State of Maryland by inviting officials responsible for the operation of the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center to tour the federal "supermax" facility in Florence, Colorado, and learn about the mental health service programs provided in that facility. The Department arranged for mental health screening intake training, as well as training in how to establish a law library, by the National Institute of Corrections in the investigation of Washington County Detention Center in Hagerstown, Maryland. In addition, 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 cases.

1. Institutions covered by CRIPA include nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, mental retardation facilities, jails, prisons, and juvenile correctional facilities.

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

3. The Section's involvement in 164 facilities during Fiscal Year 1997 breaks down into the following categories: 34 facilities in which new investigations were initiated; 51 facilities that were in various stages of on-going investigations (including two investigations that were closed during the year); 73 facilities that were operating under consent decrees (including five that were dismissed during the year); and six facilities that were subject to unresolved CRIPA lawsuits.

4. As noted on page 10, supra, six of these consent decrees were subsequently dismissed during the fiscal year.

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

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Updated August 6, 2015

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