In April 2020, 10 people incarcerated in facilities in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP) filed a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, against the city and the department over the conditions of the city’s jails.
The lawsuit (co-counseled by PILP; Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP; ALC; and Dechert LLP) was brought on behalf of all people who were incarcerated at the time in the City of Philadelphia jails. It sought to protect them from jail conditions that would increase the likelihood that they would contract the novel coronavirus and become severely sick from COVID-19.
People who are incarcerated and detained are entitled to safe and humane conditions, including protection from COVID-19, based on the 8th Amendment’s right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, the 14th Amendment’s right to due process, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The scope of the lawsuit subsequently expanded to address a range of dire jail conditions, including insufficient out-of-cell time, delays in the provision of medical care, excessive force by corrections officers, violence among incarcerated people, and insufficient access to legal counsel and the courts.
A federal judge approved a consent order on a partial settlement agreement. The consent order required the Philadelphia Department of Prisons to increase access to hygiene products and implement procedures that have been scientifically demonstrated to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and mandate that all staff who work in the prisons wear facemasks.
After learning that PDP was not complying with the agreements laid out in the consent order with regard to out-of-cell time, a motion of Contempt was filed after discovering that the Philadelphia Department of Prisons were operating under inhumane conditions that did not meet the court-ordered guidelines.. A federal judge granted the motion and ordered Philadelphia jails to prove they were letting people out of their cells at least three hours a day, or pay a fine of $10,000 a day to the Philadelphia Bail Fund. The ruling stipulated that the fine would double every two weeks until the city complies.
In an unprecedented settlement agreement, the City of Philadelphia agreed to make a one-time payment of $125,000 to the Philadelphia Bail Fund and the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, to resolve violations of Court Orders requiring out-of-cell time for people incarcerated in Philadelphia Department of Prisons facilities.
Following a court order, the City announced a plan to reinstate limited in-person visitation for vaccinated incarcerated individuals.
PILP filed an amended complaint to add additional plaintiffs and filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.
Class action settlement reached with the City of Philadelphia, designed to immediately address and improve conditions for people incarcerated in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. U.S. District Court Judge Berle M. Schiller issued an order granting preliminary approval of the global settlement agreement.
After the settlement was approved by the Court, a Court Monitor was selected. The Court Monitor convened a Monitoring Team to evaluate the Defendants’ progress in implementing the changes required in the settlement agreement and began meeting with different stakeholders. The Court Monitor issued her first report on November 4, 2022, and the Remick legal team wrote a summary and key points from the Monitor’s report.
The Court Monitor issued her second report on March 3, 2023. The report includes severe descriptions of the staffing crisis, out-of-cell time, segregation units, and use of force practices, among other things. The Remick legal team wrote a summary and key points from the Monitor’s second report.
The Court Monitor filed her third report.
Pending, March 2024
The Court Monitor’s fourth and final report will be filed on March 29, 2024