"I brought this lawsuit so no one else would have to endure the torture I endured."
That's what Raistlen Katka said when he found out the ACLU had reached a settlement with Montana State Prison to protect juveniles from being locked in solitary confinement for months on end with no review and no way out.
Raistlen was barely 17 years old when he was thrown into solitary. He spent well over a year in isolation -- only being allowed out for an hour a day, five days a week. His only mental health visits were through the window of his cell, in full hearing range of other inmates. At times he was stripped naked, given only a smock to wear and denied bedding or running water.
Solitary confinement is a torturous experience, and one that many nations prohibit.
This treatment took its toll on Raistlen. He tried to kill himself multiple times -- by hanging, with a razor and even by biting through the veins in his arm.
Yet today Raistlen is a productive member of the community, thanks to the ACLU and our cooperating attorneys' efforts to get him out of solitary confinement and into the mental health treatment and education he so desperately needed.
And today, other mentally ill and juvenile prisoners won't have to go through what Raistlen did.
Our settlement with Montana State Prison mandates:
• 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.
These are meaningful and necessary changes to Montana State Prison policy. No juvenile should go through what Raistlen did. Now no juvenile will have to.