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Polk County Florida Juvenile Prison Conditions Corizon Treatment Held Constitutional

On March 15, 2012, suit was brought against Grady Judd, Sheriff of Polk County, Florida and the jail’s health care provider Corizon Health Inc. for violating the constitutional rights of its juvenile prisoners. Plaintiffs filed for class certification, temporary and permanent injunctive relief based on Fourteenth Amendment violations of the U.S. Constitution.

Plaintiffs raised five Fourteenth Amendment violations alleging: 1) failure to provide the juveniles with “rehabilitative services,” 2)  failure to protect the plaintiffs from “unlawful force,” and “unreasonable restraints,” used by staff and generally creating “dangerously violent conditions of confinement,”3) removing juveniles from “suicide watch” and placing them in “punitive isolation without penological justification” demonstrating “deliberate indifference to their mental health needs,” 4) failure to provide prisoners with “necessary mental health treatment,” and 5) “deliberate indifference” in both the sheriff’s and Corizon’s disproportionate use of punitive isolation.

However, plaintiffs did not assert any state constitutional claim, federal or state statutory claim, or state law tort claim. Consequently, the court ordered plaintiffs to file a proposed finding of fact and conclusion of law explaining their “understanding of the governing constitutional standard.”

After complaining about the 450+ pages submitted by the plaintiffs and defendants the court responded with its own 185 page finding of fact ruling.

Foreshadowing its conclusion the court roundly criticized the manner in which plaintiffs applied the case law used to make their arguments. The court criticized plaintiffs for their lack of any comparative data to support their claim and said plaintiffs “plucked” phrases from governing authorities and “mischievously” used them out of context.

Conversely, the court described the defendant’s arguments as “convincing” while stating that plaintiff’s request for intervention would require “…an unprecedented and precipitous lowering of the constitutional threshold.”

The court ruled in favor of the defendants rejecting the notion that improvements to the treatment of the juveniles came as a direct result of the lawsuit and concluding that neither the “Sheriff’s or Corizon’s policies or customs effect any other constitutional violations.” See: Hughes v. Judd, US DC, MD FL, Case No. 8:12-cv-568-T-3MAP.


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Related legal case

Hughes v. Judd