On August 31, 2011, female prisoners formerly and currently incarcerated at the Montana Women's Prison ("MWP") filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 20 U.S.C. § 1681 against the Montana Department of Corrections. The plaintiffs, ...
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On August 31, 2011, female prisoners formerly and currently incarcerated at the Montana Women's Prison ("MWP") filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 20 U.S.C. § 1681 against the Montana Department of Corrections. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Montana and private counsel, claimed that MWP's policy forcing them to participate in the "Right Living Community" program ("RLC") and forbidding them from participating in boot camp constituted discrimination on the basis of gender, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments. They asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.
While incarcerated at MWP, plaintiffs were forced to participate in the RLC program. RLC is purported to serve as a substitute for the statutory right of prisoners in Montana to attend boot camp. Boot camp is a program that uses physical activity, military-style discipline, and intensive counseling, education, and treatment programming. Successful completion of boot camp has led to dramatically decreased recidivism rates, eligibility for sentence reduction, and conversion to probation. Female prisoners, including the plaintiffs, do not have the opportunity to attend boot camp and have no programs available for sentence reduction upon successful completion. Instead, women prisoners are required to participate in RLC. RLC does not provide the same treatment and education skills that boot camp provides. Rather, RLC is designed to restructure thinking patterns and change human behavior. RLC divides female prisoners into a hierarchy. Members of the higher levels of the hierarchy maintain power over others. RLC participants must participate in two "family" meetings each day, attend a weekly "talking circle," and complete homework assignments. Plaintiffs allege that this has caused significant negative impacts on the conditions of incarceration at MWP. The only option for women who choose not to participate in RLC is to be housed in solitary confinement. Male prisoners in the Montana State Prison are not required to participate in any treatment program unless ordered by a sentencing judge.
On October 28, 2013, upon joint motion of the parties, Judge Sam Haddon dismissed the case with prejudice. The parties settled all claims among themselves.Nate West - 11/02/2014