Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail

Supreme Court of the United States

October 9, 1991, Argued ; January 15, 1992, Decided 1

No. 90-954

Opinion

 [*371]  [**754]  [***879]    JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In these cases, the District Court denied a motion of the sheriff of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, to modify a consent  [*372]  decree entered to correct unconstitutional conditions at the Suffolk County Jail. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The issue before us is whether the courts below applied the correct standard in denying the motion. We hold that they did not and remand these cases for further proceedings.

This litigation began in 1971 when inmates sued the Suffolk County sheriff, the Commissioner of Correction for the State of Massachusetts, the mayor of Boston, and nine city councilors, claiming that inmates not yet convicted of the [****11]  crimes charged against them were being held under unconstitutional conditions at what was then the Suffolk County Jail. The facility, known as the Charles Street Jail, had been constructed in 1848 with large tiers of barred cells. The numerous deficiencies of the jail, which had been treated with what a state court described as "malignant neglect," Attorney General v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, 394 Mass. 624, 625, 477 N.E.2d 361, 362 (1985), are documented in the decision of the District Court. See Inmates of Suffolk County Jail v. Eisenstadt, 360 F. Supp. 676, 679-684 (Mass. 1973). The court held that conditions at the jail were constitutionally deficient:

"As a facility for the pretrial detention of presumptively innocent citizens, Charles Street Jail unnecessarily and unreasonably infringes upon their most basic liberties, among them the rights to reasonable freedom of  [*373]  motion, personal cleanliness, and personal privacy. The court finds and rules that the quality of incarceration at Charles Street is 'punishment' of such a nature and degree that it cannot be justified by the state's interest in holding defendants for trial;  [****12]  and therefore it violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id., at 686. 3

The court permanently enjoined the government defendants: "(a) from housing at the Charles Street Jail after November 30, 1973 in a cell with another inmate, any inmate who is awaiting trial and (b) from housing at the Charles Street Jail after June 30, 1976 any inmate who is awaiting trial." Id., at 691. The defendants did not appeal. 4

Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.

502 U.S. 367 *; 112 S. Ct. 748 **; 116 L. Ed. 2d 867 ***; 1992 U.S. LEXIS 377 ****; 60 U.S.L.W. 4100; 92 Cal. Daily Op. Service 477; 92 Daily Journal DAR 711; 21 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 737

ROBERT C. RUFO, SHERIFF OF SUFFOLK COUNTY, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. INMATES OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY JAIL, ET AL.; THOMAS C. RAPONE, COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION OF MASSACHUSETTS, PETITIONER v. INMATES OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY JAIL, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 915 F.2d 1557, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

decree, modification, consent decree, district court, Jail, celling, modify, inmates, parties, conditions, double, pretrial detainee, cases, petitioners', equitable, flexible, sheriff, terms, architectural, constitutional violation, negotiated, defer, inmate population, single cell, circumstances, provisions, settlement, unforeseen, modification of the decree, constitutionally required

Civil Procedure, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Discharge, Release & Satisfaction, Extraordinary Circumstances, Reversal of Prior Judgments, Entry of Judgments, Consent Decrees, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Relations Among Governments, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Independent Actions