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Articles by Alex Sakariassen

Efforts to Keep COVID-19 Out of Montana Prisons Fuels Outbreaks in County Jails

Martz, 44, said he suffered through symptoms that included achy joints, a sore throat, fever and an unbearable headache. Jail officials largely avoided interacting with the COVID patients other than by handing out over-the-counter painkillers and cough syrup, he said. Inmates sanitized their hands with a spray bottle containing a blue liquid that Martz suspected was also used to mop the floors. A shivering inmate was denied a request for an extra blanket, so Martz gave him his own.

“None of us expected to be treated like we were in a hospital, like we’re a paying customer. That’s just not how it’s going to be,” said Martz, who has since been released on bail while his case is pending in court. “But we also thought we should have been treated with respect.”

The overcrowded Cascade County Detention Center in Great Falls, where Martz was held, is one of three Montana jails experiencing COVID outbreaks. In ...