The ACLU, along with co-operating attorney Andree Larose of the Helena firm, Reynolds, Motl and Sherwood, filed a complaint against the state of Montana and the Montana Department of Corrections in December 2009 on behalf of a 17-year-old who has been incarcerated in the maximum security section of the Montana State Prison since the age of 16, much of that time in solitary confinement. Raistlen suffered from mental illness and tried to commit suicide four times at the prison, with a nearly successful attempt in June 2010. In the summer of 2010 we were successful in getting Raistlen transferred to the Montana State Hospital. He has since been released, and in spring 2012, the ACLU reached a settlement with Montana State Prison.

The settlement mandates new Montana State Prison policies, including:

  • Juveniles cannot be placed in solitary confinement or behavior management programs for longer than 72 hours without the approval of the director of the Department of Corrections or warden.
  • Juveniles will initially be placed in the lowest category of confinement unless they have a significant institutional history or have been convicted of a severe offense.
  • Classification of juvenile inmates will take into account their unique needs for education and mental and medical treatment and their lack of full maturity.
  • Mentally ill prisoners cannot be placed into solitary confinement if it is determined it will harm their mental health, and those who are placed in solitary confinement must receive private treatment sessions with a mental health professional as often as necessary.
  • Suicidal inmates cannot be placed in behavior management programs.

Attorney(s)

Jennifer Guitari (ACLU of MT), Elizabeth Griffing (ACLU of MT)

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Andree Larose (Reynolds, Motl & Sherwood Helena,) Ron Waterman (Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman), Greg Munro

Date filed

December 16, 2009

Court

Montana First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County

Judge

Jeffery Sherlock

Status

Victory!

Case number

BDV-2009-1163

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