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24-Year-Old Lawsuit Over Prison Conditions For Disabled Inmates Gets Hearing


A 24-year old lawsuit over conditions at the Montana State Prison could finally be coming to a close Friday.

The ACLU of Montana and the state Department of Corrections are asking a judge to approve a settlement to address conditions at the prison for inmates with disabilities at a hearing in Missoula.

Alex Rate is the legal director for ACLU Montana.

"It’s an unfortunate reality that prisoners who are disabled face all sorts of barriers to accessing programs and accessing physical spaces," Rate said. "And that’s been the situation for many decades - not just at Montana State Prison, but across the country."

Rate says participation in prison programs like vocational training can be a key factor in whether or not prisoners qualify for parole when they are eligible.

As part of the settlement the state DOC is agreeing to improve accessibility with wheelchair ramps, grab bars and other accommodations.

The settlement also protects inmates from being disciplined for behavior that is due to a mental illness or physical disability.

The lawsuit dates back to a class action suit filed in 1991 after a prison riot where five inmates were killed.

ADA compliance is the final issue to be addressed in the case.

Maxine is the Morning Edition Host and reporter for MTPR. She got her start at MTPR as a student intern reporting for Montana News during the 2017 fire season.