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Settlement Reached in MT Prison Case

A settlement agreement has been reached between attorneys for prisoners at the Montana State Prison (MSP) and Montana state officials responsible for running the prison. The case, Langford v. Racicot, was originally filed on December 30, 1993. The National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation in Washington, D.C. and local counsel Edmund Sheehy and Scott Wurster brought the case before U.S. Magistrate Leif Erikson in the Federal District of Montana in the aftermath of the 1991 riot and loss of life.

The settlement, approved by the court on November 29, 1994, was reached after a year-long pretrial investigation revealed serious problems in medical, dental and mental health services at the prison, among other things. If defendants fail to abide by the agreement, reached after many months of negotiations, or if conditions deteriorate during the life of the agreement, attorneys for the prisoners retain the right to seek further relief from the court at any time. This is critically important, especially in the event of future overcrowding or lack of resources.  

Some of the key provisions of the settlement are as follows:  

increased physician and nursing coverage to meet the needs of the MSP population;  
hiring of a medical director to develop a comprehensive medical care system;  
tuberculosis screening and followup, following the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines;
elimination of dental list backlog within one year;  
dental care within 60 days and sooner if indicated;
retention of a part-time psychiatrist to develop a comprehensive mental health services plan  
prisoners will be allowed eight hours out-of-cell time;  
defendants will fully comply with State Building and Fire codes;  
cooperation between the parole board and prison officials to develop realistic parole plans;  
annual review of prisoners' treatment plans;
implementation of objective-based classification system;  
security implementation of National Institute of Corrections' recommendations made after the 1991 riot at Maximum Security. This is to ensure that conditions leading to the riot do not recur;  
adequate security staff and training for staff;  
Maximum Security
increased amount of structured out-of-cell time for prisoners who adhere to prison rules; weekly rounds of mental health staff; 
daily sick call in an exam room on-site;
make available cell study and anger management programs.  
Handicapped prisoner compliance with all provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

National Prison Project attorney Mark Lopez says of the agreement, "The agreement is a good first step to ensure that the conditions and practices which preceded the 1991 riot at MSP do not recur. Unless, however, Montana's elected officials take responsibility for stemming the flow of prisoners into MSP through diversion programs and responsible sentencing laws, Montanans can be certain that the progress made since the riot will be undone."

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Related legal case

Langford v. Racicot