Missoula County officials recently told reporters at KPAX and the Missoulian that they are going to build an outdoor recreation area at the jail for women and juvenile prisoners.

Right now the Missoula County pods housing juvenile and female prisoners don't have access to outdoor recreation even though the pods with male prisoners do.

The ACLU of Montana sued the county last fall over this disparate and unconstitutional treatment.

"The case is in settlement negotiations and we do not yet have a settlement agreement in place," says ACLU of Montana Staff Attorney Anna Conley.  "However, we are pleased with the steps the County is taking to ensure that all juvenile and female prisoners receive the same constitutionally mandated treatment as adult male prisoners, and look forward to a favorable resolution of this case."

Courts have repeatedly ruled that depriving prisoners of fresh air and natural light is an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The American Bar Association also includes outdoor recreation in its standards for the treatment of prisoners.

Female prisoners at the Missoula County Jail report deteriorating physical and psychological conditions the longer they are in the jail.

"Many prisoners spend months and up to a year with no access to sunlight or fresh air, and that needs to change," says Conley. "We are very happy the county is taking steps to do the right thing."