On September 12, 2012, female prisoners at the Missoula County Detention Facility (MCDF), housed in Housing Unit 2 and the Juvenile Detention Center, filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana against Missoula County, the Sheriff of Missoula County and various persons employed at MCDF, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from ACLU of Montana and University of Montana Law School, sought declaratory relief, order of the Court and attorney's fees, alleging that Missoula County violated their constitutional rights and their rights under the Montana Constitution by not giving them access to fresh air and outdoor exercise. Specifically, the alleged violations were that Missoula County subjected the prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment by depriving them of fresh air and outdoor exercise, and asked for the order of the Court to provide them with outdoor exercise and fresh air for one hour five days per week. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged gender discrimination, as Housing Unit 2 and the Juvenile Detention Center were the only facilities at MCDF that housed female prisoners and had no access to fresh air and outdoor exercise, while other housing units housed only male prisoners and they had access to fresh air and outdoor exercise.
On October 17, 2012, the Court (Judge Donald Molloy) issued an order granting class certification. The Court certified the class consisting of all current and future prisoners housed in Housing Unit 2 and the Juvenile Detention Center for a period of one month or longer who claimed cruel and unusual punishment through denial of fresh air and outdoor exercise. The Court also certified a subclass consisting of all female prisoners housed in Housing Unit 2.
On December 3, 2012, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, alleged mostly the same violations, but adding a plaintiff, who was a parent suing on behalf of a minor prisoner at the Juvenile Detention Center.
On January 10, 2013, the Court (Judge Donald Molloy) issued an order denying the defendants' motion to set aside class certification, but modified the class as current and future prisoners in the Housing Unit and the Juvenile Detention Center incarcerated for a period of one month or longer whom the defendants denied fresh air and outdoor exercise, with subclass for female prisoners at the Housing Unit 2 and the Juvenile Detention Center.
On February 27, 2013, the case was stayed. On October 31, 2013, the Court (Judge Donald Molloy) issued an order and a judgment, approving and adopting a Proposed Settlement Agreement (PSA) between the parties as a consent decree. The Court stated that the PSA was fair, adequate and reasonable, with no Class member objecting to it.
Under the PSA, the defendants are to construct outdoor recreation areas for the prisoners at the Housing Unit 2 and the Juvenile Detention Center, and provide them with access to it. They are also to provide adequate staffing and policies for the usage of the areas. The Court retained jurisdiction over the subject matter of the litigation. The defendant Missoula County is to make available for inspection written logs for outdoor recreation, and allow access for confidential interviews to plaintiffs' lawyers. The consent decree can be terminated after two years pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The defendants also agreed to pay attorney's fees for the plaintiff.
On November 15, 2013, the Court (Judge Donald Molloy) issued an order granting the unopposed motion by the plaintiffs for attorney's fees in the amount of $34,594.87 within 60 days, per the stipulation filed by the parties on November 14, 2013.
On January 15, 2014, the defendants filed a status report on the construction of the outdoor recreation areas. The case seems closed. Zhandos Kuderin - 04/20/2014