Jon Campisi Aug. 6, 2011, 10:05am

An inmate at Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility has filed a prison overcrowding lawsuit, alleging that he is exposed to deplorable conditions from having to live in a multi-man prison cell.

Melvin Dixon filed the prisoner’s rights lawsuit Aug. 4 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla, and Curran-Fromhold Warden John Delaney.

Through his lawsuit, which he filed on his own behalf, Dixon airs a number of gripes with the prison, from inadequate sanitation to overcrowding.

Dixon claims that constant prison lockdowns prevent adequate sanitation of the “cells, unit and showers. The showers that are operable are covered with black mold and in disrepair, and the cells are infested with insects and live rodents,” according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that the “pervasive overcrowding in the PPS [Philadelphia Prison System]” is related to, and made worse by, a number of factors and conditions, such as inadequate “day room” and recreational space, poor ventilation and air quality, maintenance of inadequate laundry practices, and failure to train corrections officers and other staff to “supervise, manage or deal adequately with the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in the PPS.”

Furthermore, the alleged practice of “triple-celling” leaves a small amount of room in which the inmates can maneuver, forcing close physical proximity, which can lead to a high risk for the spread of “infectious disease, physical injury and violence,” the lawsuit states.

In a handwritten grievance form, which is attached to the lawsuit, Dixon claims that the overcrowded cell situation means he is often forced to sleep close to the toilet, “so I’m exposed to all sorts of germs.”

Dixon goes on to state that “I’m basically living amongst the rodents that run in and out of the cells. I believe that the way I’m being housed is inhumane now. I may be incarcerated but I’m still human.”

Through the lawsuit, Dixon alleges that his First, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution are being violated.

Dixon seeks $1,500 in compensatory damages and $1,500 in punitive damages.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05017-NS.

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