Newspaper clipping headlined "State gets stay in prison case", June 27, 1981
Newspaper clipping headlined "State gets stay in prison case", June 27, 1981.
Clippings (information artifacts)
"Texas Governor Term 1, 1979-1982"
The Dallas Morning News
Texas A&M University
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives
"Governor William P. Clements, Jr. Official State Papers, 1st Term, 1979-1983"
General Counsel | 1st term
Texas State library and archives commission
Mark WhiteRuiz v Estelle
Clements Texas Papers
State gets stay in prison case By George Kuempel Austin Bureau of The News A federal appeals court Friday granted Texas' plea for a stay of key portions of a controversial lower court order for sweeping reforms of the state's prisons, including single cells for inmates by 1983. Elated state officials hailed the ruling as a major 'victory, and said they view it as a sign the appeals court eventually will overturn the far-reaching ruling issued April 10 by U.S. Dist. Judge William Wayne Jus- tice of Tyler. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ck,\ in New Orleans, however, rejected the state's request to delay other pro- visions of the order, pending a hear- ing on the merits of the case. These include a big increase in the number of prison guards. Gov. Bill Clements and other state officials probably won't have a chance to see the 44-page opinion be- fore Monday because the court didn't release it until Friday afternoon. But they made it clear they were overjoyed by the news. Other portions of the order stayed by the appeals court include those specifying the number of inmates to be released on work forlough, where prisons are to be located and how they will be constructed, staffing pat- terns and rotation of inmate jobs and an increase in the number of commu- nity-based facilities. In issuing the order, Justice ruled that conditions in the state prison system — the largest in the nation with 31,000 inmates — violated the inmates' constitutional rights against cruel and inhumane treatment. The most controversial portion of the order dealt with overcrowding, which Justice said had made condi- tions intolerable for hundreds of in- mates who were being forced to sleep on the floor because of a shortage of cells. Justice ordered the number of prisoners per cell to be reduced grad- ually beginning last May 1, and ex- tending to Aug. 1, 1983, after which each prisoner would have his own cell. In an effort to comply with the or- der, prison officials, on Clements' or- ders, moved 816 inmates into 8-man Army-issue tents at six prison units. The Texas Legislature also appro- priated $160 million for new prisons. Justice also ordered that the guard-prisoner ratio, currently about 13-1, be reduced to 6-1 by Nov. 1, 1982. The appeals court left standing that provision, however. Texas Department of Corrections Director Jim Estelle said he was pleased with the stay, which he said coincided with his belief that there is no 1-man, 1-cell requirement in the U.S. Constitution. , "Of course, we have the whole ap- peal itself yet to go through and that's going to be probably more nearly the final resolution of the var- ious issues," Estelle said. "This is not going to diminish our commitment at all in working toward Jim Estelle . . . applauds stay See CLEMENTS on Page 14A. in prison case. 'Clements snipes at Wh•ite over prison case Continued from Page 1A. the relief of the overcrowding situa- tion. In a prepared statement, Clements said he was "delighted" with the rul- ing and renewed his charges that Justice had "overstepped his power" in issuing the order. At the same time, Clements took anOther pot shot at Atty. Gen. Mark White, demanding again that White hire "competent outside counsel" to assist the state in its appeal. Earlier in the day White released a copy of a letter he had sent to Clem- ents asking him to use his influence with President Reagan and the Re- publicans in Washington to get the Justice Department to support the state's request for a stay. Despite Clements' repeated state- ments that there had been a change of attitude by the department on the state's treatment of prisoners, the Justice Department opposed the state's motion for a stay, White said. "For his part, President Reagan se- lected people to serve in the Justice Department who have made strong commitments to reassess the federal government's position in matters such as the Texas prison case," White wrote Clements. "But those commitments have come to nothing. In fact, they virtu- ally have been scrapped," he said. Clements said the Justice Depart- ment sided with the state on several key issues, and that was partially re- sponsible for the favorable ruling by the appeals court. "In spite of Texas Atty. Gen. Mark White's attitude toward the Reagan administration, I am confident that the Justice Department's altered po- sition played an important role in the circuit court's decision," Clements said. "Justice Department attorneys did side with the state on several key is- sues. The Carter Justice Department agreed with the Texas position on nothing and, in fact, led the charge against the Department of Correc- tions." Clements said he believes, "as does the Department of Corrections Board," that White should retain out- side counsel to assist in the appeal. White has rejected that sugges- tion, saying that he and not the gov- ernor is responsible for handling the state's legal matters. In a statement released after the appeals court ruling, White said he intends to "exert every effort in pre- paring our case for our appeal before the Fifth Circuit. But in view of the Justice Department's opposition to portions of our request for a stay, this has to be considered a victory for Texas," he said.