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Case Name Fish v. Acton PC-MT-0007
Docket / Court 1:11-cv-00099 ( D. Mont. )
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
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, ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Education
Rehabilitation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Montana Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Female prisoners at Montana Women's Prison
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:11−cv−00099 (D. Mont.) 10/28/2013
PC-MT-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 08/31/2011
PC-MT-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Findings and Recommendations of United States Magistrate Judge to Deny Motion for Default and Motion to Dismiss 03/09/2012 (2012 WL 1231999) (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0007-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting Findings and Recommendations of U.S. Magistrate Judge 04/12/2012 (2012 WL 1245664) (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0007-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint 08/31/2012
PC-MT-0007-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint 09/24/2012
PC-MT-0007-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order for Stipulation for Dismissal and Proposed Order of Dismissal 09/11/2013 (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0007-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Dismissing Case 10/28/2013 (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0007-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cebull, Richard F. (D. Mont.) [Magistrate]
PC-MT-0007-0003
Haddon, Sam E. (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0007-0007 | PC-MT-0007-9000
Ostby, Carolyn S. (D. Mont.) [Magistrate]
PC-MT-0007-0002 | PC-MT-0007-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Conley, Anna (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-0004 | PC-MT-0007-0005 | PC-MT-0007-9000
Ellingson, Jon (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
Gray, Kyle A. (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-0004 | PC-MT-0007-0005 | PC-MT-0007-9000
Miller, Adrian Ann (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
Waterman, Ronald F. (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-0004 | PC-MT-0007-0005 | PC-MT-0007-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Ambrose, Colleen E (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
Eakin, Ira (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
Forsyth, W. Anderson (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
McLinden, Ross William (Montana)
PC-MT-0007-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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