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South Dakota Prisons' Conditions of Confinement Are Unconstitutional

The U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, in a class action suit, found that the totality of conditions at the South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP) and in the Women's Correctional Facility (WCF) were so bad as to violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

William Cody and other South Dakota State prisoners sued officers and members of the Board of Charities and Corrections under 42 U.S.C. §1983, claiming that environmental conditions, work safety conditions, medical treatment, and mental health treatment at the WCF and SDSP violated prisoners' rights. The case was certified as a class action. A seven-day bench trial was held in which expert and other testimony was taken.

The court issued a 37-page finding of facts and conclusions of law. The court found that the 100-year old SDSP lacked adequate fire safety procedures, ventilation, heating, lighting, hot water, water temperature control, food safety and sanitation, and safe working environments. Further, although finding that double-celling per se was not unconstitutional, double-celling at SDSP, given the other environmental conditions, violated the Eighth Amendment.

The court found that housing of intake and protective custody prisoner was inadequate. The entire medical and mental health care systems were held unconstitutional. Prisoners' access to courts was also held to be less than meaningful under the standard of Bounds v Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977).

The court ruled that, in the totality of circumstances, conditions of confinement at SDSP and WCF violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and ordered the Board of Charities and Corrections to submit a plan to change or modify the conditions. See: Cody v. Hillard, 599 F.Supp. 1025 (D SD 1984).

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Related legal case

Cody v. Hillard

CODY v. HILLARD, 599 F. Supp. 1025 (D.S.D. 04/30/1984)


[2] 80-4039

[3] 599 F. Supp. 1025, 1984

[4] April 30, 1984

[5] WILLIAM R. CODY, Individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CAROLE HILLARD, President of the Board of Charities and Corrections, FRANK BROST, Vice President, TED SPAULDING, Member, D. A. GEHLHOFF, Member, LYLE SWENSON, Member, JAMES SMITH, Executive Secretary, HERMAN SOLEM, Warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, sued individually and in their official capacities, Defendants

[6] Porter.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: PORTER


[9] The above action was tried to the Court on the merits. After considering the evidence, the legal briefs, the proposed fact findings and conclusions in a memorandum opinion. For the reasons given in the opinion, it is now

[10] ADJUDGED that the conditions of confinement in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, to the extent set forth in the opinion, violate the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and it is further

[11] ORDERED that defendants shall file with the clerk, on or before 120 days from this date, a plan by which defendants propose to change or modify the conditions of confinement to comply with the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. Upon the filing of such plan by defendants, this Court will, on notice, hear the parties on the issue of whether or not such plan, if implemented by defendants would render constitutional the conditions of confinement, and after such hearing, the Court will enter such further order as appropriate or as required to carry into effect the declaratory judgment set out in the memorandum opinion of the Court.

[12] The Court retains jurisdiction of the parties and subject matter of this action for the purposes above stated; and for the purpose of granting plaintiffs such injunctive relief as may be just and equitable under this judgment.