Can the constitutional rights of comparatively powerless citizens in the custody of public institutions be protected without jeopardizing the institutions' mandated missions? Specifically, does court-ordered desegregation create such chaotic school conditions that teaching and learning are impaired? Can prisoners be incarcerated or rehabilitated humanely but with due regard to public safety? When the judicial branch intervenes to ensure that public housing provides decent dwellings to its residents, or that mental health facilities offer clean and modern treatment to their patients, can it realistically expect to reform such recalcitrant institutions unwillingly dragged into court?
These were some of the questions put to an assembly of distinguished practitioners and scholars at a colloquium held at Wesleyan University in 1987 that examined judicial intervention in the administration of various public institutions, including schools, prisons, public housing, and mental health facilities. The panel considered four landmark cases in particular: Palmagiano vs. Garrahy, a Rhode Island prison case; Keyes et al. vs. School District No. 1, a Denver, Colorado, school integration case; Armando Perez et al. vs. Boston Housing Authority, a public housing case; and Connecticut Association for Retarded Citizens et al. vs. Gareth Thorne et al., a care for the retarded case.
This book is composed of the edited proceedings of the colloquium, plus an extensive appendix of documents, historical narratives, and legal citations for each of the four cases. The book argues that, given the nature of public bureaucratic institutions, remedial law is a necessary and permanent fixture in our judicial system, a means to correct abuses that cannot be rectified in any other way.