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$5,400 Payout by Montana DOC Over Ex-Prisoner’s Claim of Religious, Gender Discrimination

The November 7, 2019 Conciliation Agreement resolved complaints brought by prisoner May Simmons, who was held at the Montana Women’s Prison (MWP). Simmons filed a complaint with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Human Rights Bureau on August 20, 2018.

The complaint contained three claims: failure to afford equal opportunities in trade skills for women as provided men; failure to provide Simmons with a Jehovah’s Witness Bible or services; and failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for Simmons’ disabling condition.

The Conciliation Agreement provided for Simmons to receive $1,000 and her attorney, Eric Holm, received $4,400 in attorney fees. It also required MDOC to provide Simmons, who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, with a typewriter and two ribbons for use in her cell until her release (which occurred on December 15, 2019). Additionally, prisoners of the Jehovah’s Witness denomination were to be “permitted to use the chapel for the exercise of their religion to the same extent and pursuant to the same rules as all other religious denominations within the prison.”

Related legal case

Simmons v. DOC/MWP, Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Human Rights Bureau