News Releases

U.S. District Court Terminates 21-Year-Old Class Action Lawsuit

SACRAMENTO —The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced today it was pleased by the March 21 ruling of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to terminate Madrid v. Cate, a 21-year-old class-action lawsuit regarding use of force, medical and mental health care at Pelican Bay State Prison.

“The department has made tremendous efforts over the years to satisfy the court’s orders in this case, resulting in system-wide improvements to medical and mental health care and reforms to CDCR’s internal affairs and disciplinary process,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “The court’s decision to terminate this lawsuit means CDCR has successfully complied with the court’s orders to implement reforms of its use-of-force policy, to review and analyze all use of force incidents and to create an employee investigation and disciplinary process that is fair, consistent and transparent.

The lawsuit was filed in 1990 on behalf of inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison and claimed prison and department officials failed to adequately investigate allegations of excessive force and that medical and mental health care provided at the prison violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

CDCR developed comprehensive remedial plans to address the court’s concerns with progress monitored by a court-appointed special master.

System-wide reforms to the investigation and discipline of employees were approved by the court in 2004.

“CDCR has complied with the Madrid mandates and successfully created a model internal affairs investigation and employee disciplinary process. Investigations are consistent, thorough, fair and transparent. The Madrid mandates also provided oversight of employee investigations by the formation of the Bureau of Independent Review in 2004, part of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In its last report, the OIG noted that CDCR has substantially complied with the policies and procedures mandated by the Madrid court,” Cate said.

On October 16, 2008, the special master filed his final report on the use of force, recommending ending force-related remedial plan monitoring and related court orders.

On January 21, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a response to the court, acknowledging CDCR’s use-of-force policy had been adopted and implemented and that comprehensive training for all staff regarding the policy would be completed by August 1, 2011. Accordingly, it did not oppose the dismissal of the case.

“CDCR’s use of force policy is based on law and there are processes allowing for the review and analysis of all use of force incidents statewide. I am pleased with the hard work of CDCR staff in implementing these critical reforms. The court’s order to terminate this lawsuit demonstrates the acknowledgement and approval of the progress CDCR has made over the years,” Cate said.


Terry Thornton, (916) 445-4950