Philadelphia’s jails are so overcrowded and dangerous that they violate the constitutional rights of inmates, says a federal judge’s ruling reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a scathing 76-page decision, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ordered the city to provide prisoners immediately with clean cells, toilets, showers, beds, and medical attention, as well as to dramatically reduce the time that suspects are kept in police lockups. City jails will again be put under court monitoring – as they have been for most of the last 35 years.
Surrick said the city unconstitutionally “required detainees to sit and sleep on concrete floors.” The ruling came in a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of 11 prisoners by University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky. Said Rudovsky: “The city cannot build its way out of this problem. It has to find ways to manage the prison populations without spending millions and millions of dollars more each year for bricks and mortar.” In July, when the suit was filed, the city had 8,900 people in custody, 1,000 over capacity. Conditions in the city’s prison system, which houses suspects awaiting trial and inmates with sentences of less than two years, “were deplorable and life threatening as any we’ve seen in the past 35 years,” Rudovsky said.