Rhodes v. Chapman

LOCATION: 1980 Democratic National Convention, Madison Square Garden

DOCKET NO.: 80-332
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 452 US 337 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1981

Allen P. Adler - on behalf of the Petitioners
Jean P. Kamp - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

The plaintiffs were two condemners who were during the sentence in one cell in maximum security prison, located in Ohio. They brought a suit before the district court, affirming that state officials infringed their constitutional rights by this “double celling.” The appellants stated that such conditions of imprisonment contradicted with the Eighth Amendment that prohibited any unusual or cruel punishments. The case study of the first judgement in Rhodes v. Chapman explained that prisoners were sentenced to a long-lasting punishments; the number of the inmates exceeded the normal rate defined by its capacity for 38%; the study showed that each prisoner should have 555 square feet of place instead of the 63 square feet; assumptions that two convicts of one cell spend the most of their time with each other; and the view that such living conditions in the prison were permanent. Following these facts, the judges shared the position of plaintiffs.

The Court of Appeals confirmed the previous ruling. However, by the writ of certiorari the case Rodes v Chapman was passed to the Supreme Court of the USA. The judges concluded that the double-celling didn`t contravene the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The judges reflected the point that such conditions of the sentence were not cruel or unusual, but referred to the part of the punishment. The assumptions of the district trial were deemed as lacking the legal grounds to prove its points. Hence, the case brief sums up that the Supreme Court reversed the decision in Rhodes vs. Chapman.


Media for Rhodes v. Chapman

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1981 in Rhodes v. Chapman

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Rhodes v. Chapman.

Mr. Adler, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Allen P. Adler:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit for that court's affirmance of a decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio holding that double-celling at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is unconstitutional.

The single issue before this Court is whether the double-celling of prison inmates constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

William H. Rehnquist:

I thought that the District Court at one point in its opinion says it was not holding that double-celling per se was unconstitutional?

Allen P. Adler:

That's true.

The District Court said that it was not holding double-celling per se was unconstitutional, but at three or four different places in that opinion it held that double-celling was unconstitutional.

In the record in the case the judge states another three or four times that the question before the court is a question of double-celling.

William H. Rehnquist:

You say in effect that since he found nothing but double-celling as a disadvantage to the prisoners he must have held double-celling was unconstitutional?

Allen P. Adler:

Well, he found a few other unrelated things not to be to his liking.

He found nothing in the area of necessary services to be deficient.

He only found that double-celling was unconstitutional.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Adler, would you say that there are some inconsistencies in the district judge's discernment here?

Allen P. Adler:

I definitely would.

As I was saying, the single issue before this Court is whether the double-celling of prison inmates constitutes cruel and unusual punishment where the inmates were provided with reasonably adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.

The District Court found SOCF to be a top flight, first class institution, built in the early 1970s.

It found the institution to be quiet, light, and airy, the food and food service facilities to be completely adequate.

It found the institution to be comfortable, not to be hot or stuffy.

It found no excessive noise, and few odors.

The visitation facilities were more than adequate.

There had been no increase in the level of violence in the institution, the inmate to guard ratio was better than that recommended by various experts, the lighting was adequate, the plumbing was adequate.

1,150 inmates were working, 426 inmates were attending school.

School facilities were light, airy, and well equipped.

There was a modern library containing 25,000 volumes, and the law library was adequate; there was no evidence of indifference to the inmates' medical needs.

Medical care was adequate.

The question of the adequacy of clothing was not raised, nor was the question of disease or illness.

Because the District Court found that prisoners at SOCF were provided with all the services necessary to maintain their lives and health, it cannot now be argued that the institution was unconstitutionally overcrowded.

It has been argued that the District Court did not end double-celling and therefore only reduced the inmate population to ameliorate what it saw to be overcrowded conditions.

John Paul Stevens:

General Adler, can I ask you just a question about the facts for a moment, and the relief?