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Traffic Tickets Lead to Kansas Jail Reform

The U.S. District Court of Kansas determined that the totality of conditions at the Sedgwick County Jail violated detainee’s Constitutional rights.

Sedgwick County Jail was built in the early 1950s, and was designed to hold a maximum of 135 prisoners. The number would be even lower under current jail standards. At the time Reece was incarcerated, an average of 239 prisoners was confined in the jail. This is about 266% over capacity. Space per prisoner was, at times, only 18 square feet. The overcrowding exacerbated other conditions, like lack of space to exercise, prisoners being forced to sleep on the floor, hygiene supplies (i.e. 20 prisoners would share one razor), as well as outdated electrical wiring and plumbing.

Michael Reece, after an arrest for outstanding traffic tickets, brought a class action suit against the Sedgwick County Jail. Reece filed this civil action suit under 28 USC § 1343 and 42 USC § 1983, alleging multiple constitutional violations. Reece also requested injunctive relief to cease operation of the Kansas county jail under it’s the present condition.

Upon the US District Court’s review of the county jail, it granted summary judgment in favor of Reece. The court determined that Reece’s 5th, 6th and 14th Amendment rights had been violated. The court ordered injunctive relief in order for the county jail to present a proposal to bring the jail into constitutional compliance. See: Reece v. Gragg, 650 F. Supp. 1297 (D. Kan 1986).

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Related legal case

Reece v. Gragg