Pretrial detention.


Boncher ex rel. Boncher v. Brown County, 272 F.3d 484 (7th Cir. 2001). The estate of a prisoner who had committed suicide brought a ss 1983 action against jail officials alleging deliberate indifference to the risk of the prisoner's suicide. The district court granted summary judgment for the jail officials and the appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that evidence was insufficient that jail officials were deliberately indifferent, even though intake officers had little training and relied on a checklist that was deficient in several areas. The court noted that the officers were making a judgment that was not likely to be assisted by special training and that the jail was in compliance with the state's minimum standards for suicide prevention. The prisoner had been arrested after a domestic altercation, and had a long history of alcoholism and had attempted suicide at least three times, but this history was not known to the arresting officers or the personnel of the jail. The prisoner was joking wit h officers during his admission to the jail and the officers thought him to be a "happy drunk" He was placed in a regular cell instead of the jail's suicide-watch cell, and he died within 45 minutes by hanging himself with a bedsheet. The appeals court also held that the evidence offered by an expert witness was "useless" and should have been excluded. The criminologist had testified that the rate of suicide in the jail (five suicides in the preceding five years) was unusually high. (Brown County Jail, Wisconsin)

U.S. District Court


Chilcote v. Mitchell 166 F.Supp.2d 1313 (D.Or. 2001). A former prisoner and detainees at a federal detention center sued officials alleging they were subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officials, finding no Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations from the size of the cell. The court noted that all three occupants of the cell could not be off of their bunks at the same time because the cell was so small, and the occupants were confined in the cell for 20 to 21 hours daily. The court found that the crowding was necessitated by the volume of incoming detainees and the lockdown was needed because of the danger posed by detainees had not yet been evaluated. The cells had been designed to house two inmates and ranged in size from 80.7 to 96 square feet. In a triple-bunk cell, 40 to 45 square feet of floor space is covered by the bunks, sink and toilet. The remaining floor space, 35 to 40 square feet "effectively does not permit all three occupants to be off their bunks at the same time." There are no lockers, chairs or tables in the cells. (Federal Detention Center, Sheridan, Oregon)

U.S. Appeals Court

HANDICAP ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act

Chisolm v. McManimon, 275 F.3d 315 (3rd Cir. 2001). A hearing-impaired detainee brought; a suit against the warden of a pretrial detainment facility and county court system, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act, ss 1983 and a state discrimination law, for failing to provide an interpreter and other services. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants and the detainee appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded, finding that the county court system was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity during an ongoing merger with the state court system. The appeals court held that summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to: (1) the effectiveness of alternate aids or services provided to the detainee when the jail failed to provide a sign language interpreter during the intake process, activate closed captioning capabilities on a prison television, (2) provide a text device for transcribing telephone calls; and whe ther pencil and paper were effective auxiliary aids in place of a sign language interpreter; and (3) whether exceptions to institutional rules on telephone calls were an effective alternative to providing special telephones. The court held that extradition was a "program" within the meaning of ADA and the Rehabilitation Act such that the court was required to ensure the ability of the detainee to participate in the hearing. When the detainee arrived at the detention facility on a Saturday, he was locked down in his cell to keep him apart from the general population until Monday when facility classification staff arrived. This practice was applied to all detainees admitted when classification staff members were not working at the facility. Such unclassified detainees consumed meals in their cells and did not have television or telephone privileges. When the detainee was not provided with an interpreter at intake he became upset and was eventually interviewed by a nurse, who concluded that he was a suicide risk...

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