Federal judge orders overcrowded Philadelphia jails returned to court oversight

[JURIST] A federal judge held late last week that overcrowded Philadelphia jails violate inmates' constitutional rights and therefore require court monitoring. The ruling from US District Judge R. Barclay Surrick came in response to a lawsuit filed last year by University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky [faculty profile] on behalf of 11 inmates. In his opinion, Judge Surrick wrote:

The conditions include the failure to provide beds and bedding, the failure to provide material for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower facilities, unsanitary and unavailable toilet facilities, the failure to provide for the medical needs of detainees...
A similar lawsuit filed by Rudovsky 35 years ago resulted in court oversight of Philadelphia jails from 1971 to 2001. AP has more. The Philadelphia Inquirer has additional coverage.

Philadelphia city jails are not the only prisons in the United States that have faced judicial criticism lately. In December 2006, US District Judge Lawrence Karlton gave the state of California six months to remedy overcrowding [JURIST report] in the state's prison system, which is 70 percent overcapacity with 173,000 total inmates. Karlton warned that if acceptable remedies were not reached in six months, a judicial panel could order California to release prisoners before their sentences are completed. Also in December, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the Michigan Department of Corrections was in contempt of court for failing to conform with medical care requirements [JURIST report] for prisoners mandated by that court in a prior ruling.


 

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