Lanier Ramer, while incarcerated at the Federal Penitentiary, McNeil Island, Washington, became involved in a work stoppage which led to disciplinary proceedings against them. As an outgrowth of those proceedings, these four federal prisoners brought this action for declaratory, injunctive and mandamus relief against the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Warden of McNeil Island Penitentiary.

Plaintiffs brought the action on behalf of themselves and a class consisting of all federal prisoners incarcerated at the penitentiary. They assert four general claims for relief: (1) in numerous respects the procedures followed by prison officials in punishing plaintiffs by ordering forfeiture of good time credits failed to accord plaintiffs due process of law; (2) the manner of punishing plaintiffs for asserted misconduct, whereby they were placed in filthy, crowded and otherwise objectionable isolation cells for substantial periods of time, constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) in determining plaintiffs' guilt and punishment on charges of misconduct, the defendants failed to follow their own regulations; and (4) in determining plaintiffs' punishment on various misconduct charges, defendants failed to abide by the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq.

The district court denied plaintiffs' motion for a class action, apparently on the ground that 'the relief with respect to the four named plaintiffs will inure to the benefit of present and future persons incarcerated at McNeil Island . . ..'