not disclosed any decision wherein individual freeholders were found liable to an inmate or detainee for the deprivation of a protected liberty interest." Board Defendants' Brief at 29; see Board Defendants' Supplemental Letter Brief of 1/9/89 at 4. As observed by both the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit, however, it is not necessary for the precise action (or the precise actors) challenged in a current lawsuit to have previously been found unlawful in order for a qualified immunity claim to be defeated. See Anderson, 107 S. Ct. at 3039; Stoneking, 856 F.2d at 599. In addition, the Board does not, and could not, argue that prior caselaw had not long held prison administrators individually liable for violations of an inmate's clearly established rights. By virtue of the Board's resolution of May 13, 1981, wherein it "assume[d] the jurisdiction, custody and control of the Burlington County Jail System," see Plaintiff's Reply Letter Brief of 1/19/89, Exh. A, the Board took ultimate responsibility for the administration of the jail, and thus should reasonably have surmised that the caselaw regarding prison administrators would be applied to its actions. The fortuity that no other group of freeholders has assumed control of a jail, been subject to a § 1983 suit as a result of the jail's operation, and been held individually liable in a reported opinion, does not require a different result.
With respect to plaintiff's second clearly established right -- the right to be housed separately from known dangerous convicted inmates who pose a threat to personal security -- there is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the Board was aware that no inmate housing classification system was, or ever had been, in place at the Burlington County Jail. The lack of such a classification system was noted during the Vespa litigation and in the state's annual inspection reports, which reports were provided to the Board. See Report of February 6, 1981 (P-17); Report of August 12, 1982 (P-16); Report of February 16, 1983 (P-8). The Board members contend, however, that they did not violate plaintiff's right to classification because that right is limited to a right to be housed separately from known dangerous convicted inmates, and the Board was not (and could not have been) aware that known dangerous convicted inmates were being placed in cells with pretrial detainees.
See Board Defendants' Reply Letter Brief at 6.
The Board, however, misconceives the nature of plaintiff's right to classification by narrowly interpreting the language of my earlier opinion. The right possessed by plaintiff as of October 1983 was not simply a right to be housed separately from known dangerous inmates. Rather, it was a right to a classification system that would identify those dangerous inmates and place them in housing separate from pretrial detainees such as plaintiff. Certainly, that was the right recognized by Jones v. Diamond, supra, upon which this Court and the Third Circuit relied in determining plaintiff's clearly established rights. See 674 F. Supp. at 477; 860 F.2d at 1204.
Moreover, the Board's reading would lead to an anomalous result. Under its reading, prison authorities could (and here did) fail to establish a classification system, which system would have identified dangerous inmates, and then contend that they are not liable for inmate assaults because they did not know that the assaulting inmate was dangerous. Plaintiff necessarily possessed both a right to be housed separately from dangerous inmates and a right to a classification system that would achieve that result. That the Board failed to institute the classification system, and thereby failed to identify Maurice Scott as dangerous, does not entitle it to qualified immunity.
There is also evidence in the record to support a finding that the Board violated plaintiff's third clearly established right, the constitutional right to a safe prison environment. As observed by the Third Circuit, this right imposes upon prison authorities "a corresponding duty to reasonably insure that safe environment to prisoners." Stoneking, 856 F.2d at 603 n.14. Numerous courts have held that insufficient security staffing may result in a deprivation of the constitutionally-mandated safe prison environment. See Williams v. Edwards, 547 F.2d 1206, 1213 (5th Cir. 1977); Finney v. Mabry, 534 F. Supp. 1026, 1038 (E.D. Ark. 1982); Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F. Supp. 1265, 1303 (S.D. Tex. 1980); Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. 1368, 1385 (W.D. Pa. 1978).
Warden Bradman testified in his deposition that each year from 1981 through 1985 he requested funds for additional security personnel from the Board. Bradman Dep. 48:20-23. In particular, Bradman requested the addition of one training sergeant and four corrections officer positions on August 27, 1981, see Exh. M to Plaintiff's Appendix in Opposition to Board Defendants' Motion at 2; the addition of two corrections officer positions on October 7, 1981, id. at 6; and the addition of ten corrections officer positions on May 10, 1982.
Id. at 15. On October 29, 1982, Bradman again requested ten additional corrections officers, noting in a memo to the Board that "present minimum requirements for officers per shift is not adequate to maintain the necessary levels of safety and custody for officers, employees and inmates within the facility." Bradman Dep. 49:24-50:2; see also Exh. M at 16 (Bradman memo to Board of August 10, 1982, noting that "there is currently a substantial shortage of Correction Officers assigned" at the jail). In response to these requests for additional corrections officers, the Board authorized the hiring of three additional corrections officers in 1984. See Bradman Dep. 51:4-21. As for the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, during which shift plaintiff was attacked, the warden's request for two additional officers was not granted until January 1984, so that Bradman considered the shift to have been understaffed as of October 1983. Id. at 55:23-56:14. A jury could conclude from this evidence that the Board could not have reasonably believed that its refusal to supply Burlington County Jail with additional security personnel, when the warden of the jail requested the personnel as necessary for the security of the inmates, was lawful, in view of the inmates' right to a secure environment.
As such, the Board defendants are not entitled to summary judgment as to this claim on the ground of qualified immunity.
2. Jail Defendants
a. Bradman and Pierce
Bradman was hired by the Board after the Board assumed control of the Burlington County Jail by resolution dated May 13, 1981. See Conda Dep. 15:24-25. As warden, Bradman was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the jail. See id.; Jail Defendants' Brief at 5. Pierce held the position of captain as of October 1983, and advised and assisted the warden in setting weekly schedules, in formulating rules and regulations for security and for operating the jail, and generally in the administration of the jail on a daily basis. See Pierce Dep. 19:11-20:9 (attached at Exh. A, Plaintiff's Appendix in Opposition to Jail Defendants' Motion); Jail Defendants' Brief at 3. In sum, Warden Bradman had the authority to alter the day-to-day operation of the jail in any manner in which he saw fit, and Captain Pierce had the responsibility of advising and assisting Warden Bradman with respect to the operation of the jail. It is in light of these powers and responsibilities that Bradman and Pierce's defense of qualified immunity must be examined.
Insofar as plaintiff's right to be free from overcrowding is concerned, both Bradman and Pierce were aware of the overcrowded conditions at Burlington County Jail. See Bradman Dep. 31:23-32:8 (attached at Exh. A, Plaintiff's Appendix in Opposition to Jail Defendants' Motion); Pierce Dep. 81:22-24. Warden Bradman had at his disposal at least two avenues by which the overcrowding could have been lessened: he could have aggressively sought to transfer minimum-security prisoners and pretrial detainees to the minimum-security New Lisbon facility, see Case Expert Report at 9, and he could have accepted, rather than rejected, the state's offer of monies for renovating or constructing jails under the county assistance program. See infra n.6 and P-62. Thus, as with the Board, Bradman's contention that E.O. 106 vested sole authority in Commissioner Fauver to deal with the placement of state inmates (see Jail Defendants' Reply Letter Brief at 4) cannot support his qualified immunity defense, for a jury could conclude that the warden neglected to attempt available solutions to the overcrowding at Burlington County Jail. As such, he is not entitled to summary judgment regarding this claim.
Both Bradman and Pierce knew that the Burlington County Jail had not instituted any classification system as of October 1983, and they do not contest that knowledge. I have previously found a factual dispute as to whether the physical plant of the Burlington County Jail permitted classification in October 1983. See Ryan, 674 F. Supp. at 478. Warden Bradman had the authority to require that a classification system be instituted; Captain Pierce had the responsibility of advising and assisting Warden Bradman in setting the procedure and rules which would govern the daily administration of the jail. On the record before me, neither Bradman nor Pierce took any action whatsoever in an attempt to establish a system of classification at the Burlington County Jail. I cannot say that a jury, on these facts, would be obliged to find that Bradman and Pierce's belief that their actions were lawful was reasonable, and thus a qualified immunity defense has not been established.
Finally, Bradman and Pierce were also responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that a safe prison environment existed at Burlington County Jail. All Jail defendants (including Bradman and Pierce) concede, for purposes of these motions, that they were aware that Scott had been involved in prior fights during his incarceration.
See Jail Defendants' Reply Letter Brief at 3. Moreover, a jury could find that the frequency with which fights occurred during mealtimes, see Horton Dep. 114:3-8 (attached at Exh. C, Plaintiff's Appendix in Opposition to Jail Defendants' Motion); Polis Dep. 37:20-38:7 (attached at Exh. H); Lightsey Dep. 34:10-13 (attached at Exh. I): Speight Dep. 123:1-2, 15-17 (attached at Exh. J), was a condition that was or should have been known to Bradman and Pierce, as the chief administrators of the jail. With this knowledge, Bradman and Pierce failed to designate Scott as a state inmate to be transferred back to a state institution, see Cooper Dep. 52:20-53:3 (attached at Exh. X) (Cooper, Bradman, and Pierce could designate any state inmate for transfer to a state prison), even though approximately twenty state inmates were transferred from the Burlington County Jail to state prisons during the period of Scott's incarceration. See P-66, at 9-11. They also failed to have at least one corrections officer assigned to roam the second floor during mealtimes and to monitor the cells, as opposed to having all three officers serve meals in the cells at the same time. Given the frequency of mealtime fights, and given that activity in one cell could not be heard by officers in another cell, see Flournoy Dep. 42:21-25 (attached at Exh. M), Bradman and Pierce should reasonably have known that security arrangements on the second floor of Burlington County Jail during October 1983 were deficient.
See Case Expert Report at 10.
b. Sergeants Adams and Horton
Plaintiff does not appear to contend that Sergeants Horton and Adams had any authority to remedy the overcrowding situation at the Burlington County Jail. See Plaintiff's Brief at 25-27. Moreover, they lacked the authority to institute a classification system, even though each attempted to undertake inmate classification on an ad hoc basis. See Horton Dep. 114:9-11, 14-18; 115:7-11 (classified inmates according to nature of charges, appearance, and available space); Adams Dep. 10:17-25 (attached at Exh. D, Plaintiff's Appendix in Opposition to Jail Defendants' Motion) (inmates charged with "serious crime[s]" would be placed in individual cell; all others housed according to availability of space). Accordingly, I find that a jury could not determine that Sergeants Adams and Horton's belief in the lawfulness of their actions was unreasonable, at least insofar as regards plaintiff's right to be free from overcrowding and to be provided a classification system.
With respect to plaintiff's right to a safe prison environment, however, the sergeants' qualified immunity defense must fail. Both Sergeant Adams, Adams Dep. 15:21-16:8, and Sergeant Horton, Horton Dep. 167:15-168:6, had the authority to transfer inmates from the dormitory cells to the individual cells at the Burlington County Jail. Both were aware that Scott had been involved in various altercations at the jail during his time there, and both were (or reasonably should have been) aware that the overcrowded conditions at the jail and the understaffed security force made aggression among inmates all the more likely. See Adams Dep. 24:9-12, 25:2-6. Despite this knowledge, neither Adams nor Horton attempted to transfer Scott to an individual cell.
Because a jury could find that the failure to do so, in light of plaintiff's clearly established right to a safe prison environment, could not reasonably have been considered lawful, summary judgment as to this claim would be inappropriate.
c. Corrections Officers
As with the sergeants, plaintiff does not argue that the corrections officers had any authority to rectify the overcrowding problem at Burlington County Jail. See Plaintiff's Brief at 23-26. The corrections officers also did not have the authority to institute a formalized classification system at the jail, for that responsibility fell to Bradman and Pierce. Plaintiff argues that the officers failed to provide plaintiff with a safe prison environment by failing to recommend the transfer of Scott to an individual cell, id. at 23-25, and by failing to have at least one officer roam the second floor during mealtimes, rather than having all three serve meals together. Id. at 25-26. A jury could not properly find that the corrections officers acted unreasonably in failing to recommend Scott's transfer, when the officers, who were without the authority to effect that transfer, relayed to the sergeants (who could transfer Scott) their belief that Scott was dangerous. See, e.g., Lightsey Dep. 43:16-19. Having placed that information in the sergeants' hands, the officers could not reasonably have expected that to fail to go further and recommend Scott's transfer would subject them to personal liability. Similarly, because plaintiff has not even established that the sergeants, much less the corrections officers, had the authority to order an officer to roam the second floor, the corrections officers were under no duty to alter the regimen prescribed for them by their superiors and take it upon themselves to monitor that floor. As such, the corrections officers are entitled to judgment in their favor on the ground of qualified immunity.
B. Section 1983 Liability -- Davidson and Daniels
As an initial matter, defendants apparently do not dispute that plaintiff possessed, in October 1983, a protected liberty interest, under the Fourteenth Amendment, in being protected from an assault by a fellow prisoner. In any event, it is clear that such an interest exists. The Supreme Court has observed that prison administrators "are under an obligation to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates themselves," Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27, 82 L. Ed. 2d 393, 104 S. Ct. 3194 (1984), and the Third Circuit has similarly found that "because an inmate is not free to leave the confines which s/he is forced to share with the other prisoners, the state bears the responsibility for the inmate's safety." Davidson, 752 F.2d at 821. Accordingly, the Third Circuit has held that inmates enjoy a liberty interest in freedom from attack by fellow prisoners. Id. at 822. It is this interest which plaintiff is attempting to vindicate in this § 1983 action.
Defendants assert, en masse, that their actions here constitute, at worst, mere negligence, and that as such those actions cannot form the basis of a valid § 1983 claim. See Jail Defendants' Brief at 14-20; Reply Letter Brief at 2-3; Board Defendants' Brief at 14-19. In so contending, they rely upon the holdings of Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986), and Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 88 L. Ed. 2d 677, 106 S. Ct. 668 (1986), that negligent conduct by a state official cannot result in a deprivation under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because their conduct was no more culpable than the conduct described as negligent in Davidson, defendants argue, their conduct here cannot be actionable under § 1983. For the following reasons, I reject that argument.
The logical starting point for consideration of defendants' argument is the Supreme Court's opinion in Davidson. The facts of that case were as follows:
On December 19, 1980, petitioner was threatened by one McMillan, a fellow inmate . . . Petitioner sent a note reporting the incident that found its way to respondent Cannon, the Assistant Superintendent of the prison, who read the note and sent it on to respondent James, a Corrections Sergeant. Cannon subsequently testified that he did not view the situation as urgent because on previous occasions when petitioner had a serious problem he had contacted Cannon directly.