Monday, July 16, 2018

Shorter v. Baca (9th Cir. - July 16, 2018)

From today's opinion:

"At trial, Shorter presented uncontroverted evidence that the County, tasked with supervising high-observation housing for mentally ill women, has a policy of shackling the women to steel tables in the middle of an indoor recreation room as their sole form of recreation, and that jail officials routinely leave noncompliant detainees naked and chained to their cell doors, for hours at a time without access to food, water, or a toilet."

At a minimum, that doesn't sound like particularly fun "recreation."

A bit more detail:

"For recreation, deputies move the women to an indoor day room, where they leave the women with one arm restrained by a handcuff extended from a chain secured to the floor. The women sit individually at indoor steel tables and benches. Some watch television and others participate in group activities. Jail policy requires the women to remain handcuffed to the chain next to the table at all times, and HOH detainees do not have access to a gym or an outdoor recreation area. Shorter participated in two and half hours of this type of recreation during her thirty-two days in the jail. The jail’s daily logs also show that on seven days of her confinement Shorter received less than three meals per day. And the same logs show that Shorter showered only three times, going six, seven, or eight days during her confinement without a shower, and instead relying on feminine pads for personal sanitation."

And then there's the always-fun cavity search:

"Shorter also challenges the jail’s visual body cavity search policy, which all inmates are subjected to upon return from trips to court, and the jail’s pervasive practice of leaving noncompliant detainees shackled to their cell doors. The search process begins with the detainee inside her cell, with both hands in handcuffs. The detainee then places her hands outside the chute of her cell, where the deputy, on the other side of the door, unlocks one of the handcuffs. Then, with one hand still handcuffed and attached to a chain outside of the door, the detainee removes her pants, socks, and shoes, as well as her shirt and bra, which remain attached to the chain extending from her handcuff. The detainee must then lift her breasts, lower her underwear, bend over, open her vagina and rectum, and cough. The County’s official policy mandates that inmates shall not be required to “remain in any search position for more time than is reasonable and necessary to complete the search.”

In practice, however, where the detainee failed to comply with the search procedures, it was common for deputies to leave the detainee chained to her cell door for hours at a time. Deputies Avalos and Ortiz testified that they were trained to leave noncompliant detainees who did not follow search procedures chained to their cell doors. Shorter testified that, on three occasions, deputies Avalos and Ortiz left her chained to her cell door for three to six hours, without access to food, water, or clothing. On one occasion, the deputies did not leave enough slack on Shorter’s chain to allow her to reach the bathroom in her cell. Shorter testified that there was only enough slack on the chain to allow her to sit on the floor and hold her hand up in the air. Each time the deputies chained Shorter to her cell door, Shorter freed herself by manipulating her hand out of the restraints or by convincing another deputy to release the restraints. Shorter said that these incidents made her feel like “an animal on display.”"

Plaintiff loses below.  The Ninth Circuit reverses and remands.