MISSOULA – A hearing in Missoula on Friday could finally resolve a long legal battle stemming from a prison riot that killed five inmates in Deer Lodge three decades ago.
Prisoners planned the uprising in 1991, taking over control of the maximum security unit in a protest over conditions. The riot lasted less than five hours, but resulted in the brutal killings of five inmates accused of being informants, three of them dying when they were hung.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Montana State Prisons on behalf of the prisoners, with a settlement reached in 1994. Improvements were made over the following years, but the question of whether the prison is in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act has remained unresolved.
Five years ago, the court determined Department of Corrections still needed to provide access to prison jobs, vocational training and other services for inmates suffering from mental and physical disabilities.
Now, the ACLU of Montana and the state have reached a settlement agreement which could resolve the final parts of the dispute. It will be presented to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch during a fairness hearing Friday morning at the U.S. Courthouse.