ACLU: Inmates allege freezing conditions at Montana State Prison

Posted at 9:45 AM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 11:45:38-05

BUTTE – A civil rights group has confirmed to MTN News that it’s looking into complaints of a severe lack of heat in some of the buildings at the Montana State Prison.

The Montana American Civil Liberties Union has received reports of a severe lack of heat in some of the buildings at the state prison in Deer Lodge. This lack of heat occurred during the cold snap that struck Montana earlier this month.

The ACLU reports the cold was so severe, frost gathered on the insides of cell windows.

According to a statement from the ACLU, “Depriving people who are incarcerated adequate warmth is cruel and unusual punishment and is blatantly unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter what it takes, MSP and the Department of Corrections must fix this issue now.”

A relative of an inmate, who filed a complaint with the ACLU, said she spoke with other inmates and they say the problem is in a building where many inmates sleep.

“There are guys that are freezing all night long, praying for daylight so they can get access to some warmth. And I don’t care what you did, if you’re incarcerated, you’ve got the right to be treated like a human,” said the person who requested to remain anonymous.

The ACLU said the prison told them they have a problem with one of the boilers on the facility. The ACLU is urging the prison to take care of the problem soon.

State prison officials told MTN Monday evening they had a backup boiler go down on February 5, but that it was fixed that afternoon.

Since then, there have been no reports from staff or inmates of severe cold in the unit.

-Reported by John Emeigh/MTN News