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38 inmates sue Lake County, alleging ‘inhumane’ jail conditions

More than three dozen inmates at Lake County’s detention center are suing over alleged inhumane conditions at the jail in Polson.

The suit, filed in federal court, alleges that overcrowding at the jail has led to violence, some inmates having to sleep on the floor and inmates sometimes being deprived of essential toiletries, like toothpaste, among other complaints.

The plaintiffs argue these conditions violate inmates’ constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and free exercise of religion.

According to the complaint, the majority of inmates listed as plaintiffs are enrolled members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. They allege they’ve been denied the ability to practice their religious ceremonies.

Montana State News Bureau reported in February that Lake County threatened to sue the state over claims it was not funding an agreement that gives county law enforcement jurisdiction over Native American criminal defendants. A video sent to the state as evidence of the financial burden shows corrections officials pointing out an antiquated jail with mold growth and crumbling infrastructure.

Lake County Sheriff Donald Bell did not respond to MTPR’s request for comment.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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