Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (Civ. No. 00-cv-00531) District Judge: Hon. Sue L. Robinson
Before: Scirica, Chief Judge, Roth and
McKEE, Circuit Judges
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKEE, Circuit Judge
Argued: February 12, 2004
Pre-trial detainees housed at a correctional facility in Delaware ask us to review the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of prison officials and the state's Attorney General. The detainees claim that certain conditions of their confinement deprive them of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Inasmuch as we conclude that the district court improperly analyzed their claim under the Eighth Amendment, rather than the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, we will reverse and remand for an appropriate due process analysis.
The Multi-Purpose Criminal Justice Facility commonly known as "Gander Hill," is located in Wilmington, Delaware.
It was constructed in 1982 and enlarged when a new wing was added in 1992. Stanley Taylor has been the Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Corrections (the "DOC") since the fall of 1995, Raphael Williams is the warden at Gander Hill, and M. Jane Brady is the Attorney-General of Delaware.
On May 30, 2000, a number of pre-trial detainees at Gander Hill filed a handwritten pro se complaint against Taylor, Williams, and Brady. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that various conditions of the detainees' confinement violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn1 An amended complaint was filed following appointment of counsel. The amended complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, attorneys' fees and costs; and it added Kevin Ketchum and Percy Osbourne as plaintiffs. Like the original plaintiffs, Ketchum and Osbourne alleged a due process violation based upon conditions of their confinement, but they added a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.*fn2
Pre-trial detainees are housed in the West Wing of Gander Hill, and convicted inmates are generally housed in the East Wing.*fn3 The typical West wing modular unit or "pod" contains two housing units connected by a control room from which correctional officers can observe the two units. Each unit contains a large dayroom of approximately 3,900 square feet, containing a sink, tables, chairs and a television. Twenty cells surround the dayroom. With some minor variation, they are all approximately the same size.
A. The Conditions of Confinement Claim.
Plaintiffs' conditions of confinement claim rests upon their challenge to the practice of housing three detainees in cells intended and designed for one person ("triple-celling").*fn4 Plaintiffs claim that triple-celling requires someone to sleep on a mattress that must be placed on the cell floor adjacent to a toilet. Plaintiffs allege that this violates the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving them of their liberty without due process of law.*fn5
The defendants concede that an inmate must sleep on a floor mattress when three are housed in a given cell. When that happens, the newest arrival is required to sleep on a mattress on the floor until one of his cellmates is released or moved. That frees a bunk for the inmate who had been on the floor mattress, and any new arrival in that cell would then take his place on the floor mattress.*fn6
The cells range in size from 69 to 76 square feet, and the net unencumbered space in the cell (gross footage of 69-76 square feet less space required for a bed, mattress, desk and toilet) is less than 50 square feet or 16 square feet per occupant of each tripled cell. Plaintiffs claim that the bunk bed and floor mattress leave extremely limited space for three adult men to move about in the cell. They claim that these cramped conditions have caused injuries including some as serious as a broken leg. For example, Darrin Moon was a detainee at Gander Hill in June 2000. He claims that his leg was broken when a cellmate jumped off the bunkbed in the middle of the night and landed on Moon's leg. Another detainee, Gregory Bolling alleges a similar mishap. Bollling claims he sustained numerous injuries including an infected shin as a result of attempting to navigate the one foot clearance between the bunkbed and his cellmate's mattress,
Plaintiffs claim that the deprivations are exacerbated because sleeping on the floor forces detainees to sleep very near the open toilet. This has purportedly resulted in urine and feces regularly splashing on whomever is relegated to the floor mattress. For example, detainee Gregory Hubbard stated, "one of the primary things that I felt was degrading was the sleeping on the floor and having to sleep on the floor next to a urinal or toilet as long as I did when other arrangements could have been made to provide me with a bunk like the other two individuals in my room."
Plaintiffs claim that pre-trial detainees typically spend a minimum of 2 months, and most spend 3 to 7 months, sleeping on a floor mattress before a cellmate leaves and a bunk becomes available. They also argue that they have to deal with the extreme discomfort and disease associated with sleeping on a concrete floor. According to them, a Prison Facilities Audit supports their claim that the foam mattresses provided by the prison officials are thin, worn-out and filthy. The Prison Facilities Audit described the conditions in pertinent part as follows:
In most housing units – many mattresses are used on the floor without protective covers. Since the institution does not have mattress sanitizing facilities, some sort of protective cover should be used. If covers are not feasible, then perhaps a sheet of plastic or a cloth sheet should be placed on the floor to help keep the mattress clean.
Plaintiffs insist that conditions were no better five months later when a report noted that "[t]here are no facilities available for cleaning of those mattresses." Still later, in May 2001, the unsanitary conditions were purportedly still being noted in the official internal reports. According to plaintiffs, these floor mattresses were not only unsanitary, they were also so thin, worn and uncomfortable that sleeping on them was tantamount to actually sleeping on the bare floor.
Plaintiffs insist that prison officials could have prevented "triple bunking"*fn7 and its associated problems. They claim that these problems would have been avoided had Commissioner Taylor added the additional 2500 beds that had been envisioned as part of a "Master Plan"that was devised in response to litigation that has been ongoing for 20 years. The earliest suit was filed in March 1980 and was resolved in a 1988 Settlement Agreement. There, prison officials agreed to stop "double bunking" and return to placing a single inmate in cells at state prisons. Dickerson v. Castle, Civ. Act. No. 10256, Delaware Court of Chancery. However, plaintiffs claim that the additional beds were never occupied because prison officials failed to train enough correctional officers to properly respond to an increase in the prison population. Thus, in plaintiffs' view, the prison officials are responsible for the overcrowded conditions at Gander Hill.
B. The Americans With Disabilities Act Claim.
As noted above, the amended complaint added the ADA claims of Kevin Ketchum and Perry Osbourne. However, Osbourne has since died of cancer and the plaintiffs concede that his death moots his claim. Ketchum has end-stage renal failure and loss of kidney function. He has been on dialysis since 1994 and allegedly requires a kidney transplant that officials purportedly refuse to facilitate.*fn8 However, he can not receive a kidney transplant unless he is first placed on the transplant waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Transplants ("UNOS").
According to plaintiffs, Ketchum has been petitioning prison officials to start the process for getting a kidney transplant since 1977 when he first asked them to release documents so that he could be placed on the transplant list as his physician recommended. According to plaintiffs, Ketchum has a compelling need to get on the transplant list quickly because he is reaching the outer limits of the time he can tolerate dialysis.*fn9
C. The Defendants' Response.
Gander Hill receives approximately 18,000 admissions per year, and the defendants maintain that neither Taylor nor the warden have any control over that number. The officials concede that triple-celling is used at Gander Hill, and that this forces some detainees to sleep on a floor mattress. However, they deny that the mattresses are adjacent to toilets. Officials claim that there is ample room to arrange a mattress so that the toilet is at the resident's foot and several feet away. Thus, say the defendants, there is no reason for anyone to worry about unsanitary and unhealthy conditions as a result of sleeping on the floor. They draw support for their position from the deposition testimony of detainees Moon and Wilson.
Moon testified in relevant part as follows: I chose to sleep with my head towards the window and my feet towards the toilet. Let's say, from my waist down where their beds are. Because if I slept the other way, and somebody used the bathroom, I would have to worry about him standing over top of me and water and urine splashing over me.
The officials note that Moon did not say that urine and feces splashed on him as plaintiffs' claim suggests. Rather, he only said that he worried about that happening. Moon also stated that he could address that concern by simply sleeping with his head away from the toilet.
Defendants also cite the exchange during detainee Wilson's deposition that defendants claim further demonstrates that ...