The ACLU of Montana has settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of an inmate at Montana State Prison who was denied the ability to correspond with his family in Spanish.
The prison's "English-only" policy violated the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment Right to equal protection. In the settlement, prison officials committed to making a good-faith effort to find translators to handle correspondence in foreign languages so that it can be screened for security.
William Diaz-Wassmer is serving a life term at Montana State Prison since 2007. For the first two years of his incarceration, Diaz-Wassmer was able to correspond with his parents, family and friends in their native language of Spanish. But starting in May 2010 he was prohibited from receiving mail in any language but English. The ACLU of Montana became involved in his case in 2011.
"Inmates do not give up their constitutional rights when they enter prison," said former ACLU of Montana Staff Attorney Jennifer Giuttari at the time the lawsuit was filed. "William Diaz-Wassmer still has a First Amendment right to free expression, and correspondence is part of that right."