Philadelphia’s jail population hit a record high of more than 9,300 inmates this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The jail system is now so overcrowded that more than 2,000 inmates are confined three to a cell, charges a class-action lawsuit filed this week. The lawsuit said the practice of triple celling has been expanded to deal with the record high numbers. A federal judge last year warned that keeping three inmates in cells built for two was “not tenable as a permanent cure” for overcrowding.
Without a third bunk in the cell, the third inmate is required to sleep in a plastic shell, called a “blue boat,” on the floor, the suit stated. The lawsuit was filed for 11 inmates by civil-rights lawyer David Rudovsky, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and other lawyers. City Solicitor Shelley Smith said efforts have been under way to try to ease the overcrowding. She said “demand far exceeds supply” of available cells. The lawsuit said triple celling and housing inmates in overcrowded dormitories had resulted in “system-wide unconstitutional conditions of confinement” with an increased risk of violence, spread of disease, and poor sanitation.