Albert Chavies was confined in protective custody in Vroom from November, 1975 until June, 1979 when he accepted a transfer to a prison in Virginia.
Defendant William H. Fauver was, at the time of the filing of the complaint in July, 1979, and remains Commissioner of Corrections. When the complaint was filed defendant Gary J. Hilton was Superintendent of TSP. He has since become Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Corrections. Defendant Elijah Tard, Jr. was Director of Vroom when the complaint was filed and is now Superintendent of TSP. Defendant Joseph G. Call was, at the time of the filing of the complaint, and remains a Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Institutions within the Department of Corrections. During the period pertinent to this action he served as Chairman of the Inter-Institution Classification Committee ("IICC").
The complaint sought relief authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and asserted jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(3). Plaintiffs seek damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
In brief, plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that in October, 1975, without prior hearing, they were placed in protective custody at TSP and that in November, 1975 they were transferred to Vroom, where they have remained in protective custody ever since, subject to the very onerous conditions which prevail in that institution. Plaintiffs further alleged that they have been kept in protective custody over their objections and without the opportunity to present evidence that such custody is unnecessary. Three broad legal grounds for relief were asserted: (i) Plaintiffs were deprived of procedural due process when they were placed and continued in protective custody. (ii) The conditions under which plaintiffs are confined (or, in the case of Chavies, were confined) in Vroom, which are no different from the conditions of confinement of prisoners held there for disciplinary reasons, violate their constitutional rights. (iii) Continuation of plaintiffs in protective custody in Vroom for the reason that no superintendent of another State prison wished to accept them violates the consent decree dated December 14, 1976 settling the case of Wooten v. Klein, Civil Action No. 75-179. During pretrial proceedings plaintiffs moved to reopen proceedings in Wooten and to consolidate that case with this one. The motion was denied, but the complaint in this action was amended to include an allegation that plaintiffs have been denied the rights to which they are entitled under the consent decree in Wooten and to include a prayer for relief seeking enforcement of that decree.
Defendants answered, raising the usual affirmative defenses in a § 1983 action.
In November, 1979 plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction restraining defendants from continuing to hold Calloway and Coy in protective custody in Vroom without affording them a hearing comporting with due process requirements. After finding that from October 16, 1975, when they were placed in protective custody, until the date of the hearing on their motion Calloway and Coy had not received a hearing meeting the requirements of Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974), I concluded that plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits on the issue raised by the motion. I held that a person confined in protective custody must periodically be given the opportunity to contest the need for confinement. I ordered defendants to provide those two plaintiffs with a hearing comporting with Wolff v. McDonnell standards, as appropriately modified to meet the circumstances of the present case. A hearing was held on February 22, 1980. Calloway and Coy assert that it did not comport with due process requirements primarily because much of the evidence consisted of confidential information which was not disclosed to them.
Defendants submitted to the Court the evidence which was used at the February, 1980 protective custody hearing and which was not disclosed to plaintiffs. They moved that it be impounded. I reserved decision on the motion until the time of trial. By that time, due to changed circumstances, defendants concluded that they were in a position to make most of this evidence available to plaintiffs. I examined the balance of the material which defendants asked not be released and concluded that its release would occasion the risk of identifying informants and of disclosing investigative techniques and sources, thereby undermining the ability of prison authorities to maintain order and avoid violence in the prison system.
I ordered that it be filed in the case under seal. I have examined these documents in connection with the preparation of this opinion. They add little of substance to the evidence in the record but provide some additional support for defendants' conclusion that plaintiffs' release into the TSP general population would endanger them and threaten institutional security.
The case was tried and an extensive record developed.
Findings of Fact
A. Background : At the heart of this case lies the intense rivalry and hostility between two of the quite numerous Black Muslim factions.
On the one side is a group originally known as the Nation of Islam. It has gone through various permutations and changes of name over the years, developing subgroups and factions in the process. During the period relevant to this case its members, or significant factions, have called themselves the World Community of Islam, the World Community of Islam in the West and, most recently, the American Muslim Mission. In an attempt to avoid confusion I shall refer to this general group collectively as the Old World of Islam.
Plaintiffs are members of the group known as the New World of Islam and will be referred to as such in this opinion.
Both groups have extensive memberships in the New Jersey State Prison, and the New World of Islam resulted from a split within the Old World movement at TSP.
Just prior to September, 1973 the New World group included members in prison and at large in the community. Plaintiffs were among the members at large. The New World sought to take control of the Old World of Islam's Mosque No. 25 in Newark. To accomplish this end it was concluded that it was necessary to kill the Minister of the Mosque, James Shabazz. On September 4, 1973 he was murdered in front of his home in Newark.
A number of New World members, including plaintiffs, participated in the planning and execution of the murder. All were apprehended, tried and convicted of the crime. Upon arrival at TSP in 1974 they were placed in protective custody in Vroom to avoid retaliation against them by Old World members, who were then a powerful force at TSP.
The New World members sought release from the restrictive conditions in Vroom and they and their families petitioned prison authorities for transfer of New World inmates to the general population at TSP. They assured the authorities that they would be safe. Gradually New World members were transferred to TSP. By October, 1975 all of the New World inmates had been removed from Vroom and were in the TSP general population.
On October 16, 1975 the Old World members launched a heavy attack on the New World group in the Donald Bourne School at TSP. Stolen knives and chisels and homemade weapons were employed. One New World member was killed and three, including Chavies and Calloway, were seriously wounded.
The prison administration promptly transferred the Old World and New World participants in the fracas to Vroom in order to separate the combatants. Gradually, in the years that followed, the Old World members in Vroom were returned to the general population at TSP. It was decided to return the Old World members to TSP because their group was the more numerous and had a large following at TSP. During the same period the lesser leaders of the New World faction were transferred out of Vroom. Most went to the State Prison at Rahway, where the Old World membership was smaller and which did not house the most powerful Old World leaders.
However, the prison authorities concluded that if they were to send the three plaintiffs back into the general population of any State prison there would be a recurrence of the Bourne School episode. It is the authorities' firm belief that the Old World members are simply biding their time until Calloway, Chavies and Coy are returned to the general population before they seek once again to avenge the death of Minister Shabazz. The authorities can foresee no time when this threat will be gone and, therefore, hold out to plaintiffs only two alternatives -- either indefinite confinement in protective custody in Vroom or transfer to the general population in an out-of-state prison.
B. Plaintiffs' Transfer to and Retention in Vroom : The transfer of inmates to protective custody and retention in that status is the subject of Standards adopted by the Department of Corrections. Standards 256 (Administrative Segregation) as adopted March 24, 1975 was in effect in October and November, 1975. It provided that inmates could be transferred to administrative segregation "to aid in assuring the safety and security of the institution, for the protection of themselves or others, or because of their inability to get along in the general population", 256.210. The Standards further provided that "Any inmate to be placed in administrative segregation against his will for any reason is entitled to all the procedures specified in Standards 254. ADJUSTMENT COMMITTEE OR HEARING OFFICER", 256.212.
Specifically as to protective custody, Standards 256.271 stated:
A protective admission to administrative segregation is only made where there is substantial evidence that such action is necessary, unless the inmate consents, in writing, to confinement in the unit. Protective custody is used only for short periods of time except where an inmate needs long-term protection and the facts are well documented.
Where the inmate does not consent to an assignment to protective custody or where the inmate requests reassignment and such reassignment is not made within two weeks of the date of request, the Superintendent or his designate immediately orders a hearing and submits a full report to the Director as to the reasons for the protective custody of the inmate in administrative segregation.