Montana Public Radio

ACLU of Montana

COVID goes to college

Sep 3, 2020

For months, Gallatin County was the epicenter for COVID-19 cases in Montana. The county was the first in Montana to hit 100 cases, the first to document community spread, and during the pandemic’s first month Gallatin County was home to more than half the reported cases in the state.

A recent report says Black people in Montana are nearly 10 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people. That’s higher than any other state.

Montana’s top rank comes from an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released in April that evaluated six million arrests across the U.S. between 2010 and 2018.

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety.

The positive cases were discovered Saturday and Monday at Alpha House pre-release center, where court-ordered offenders typically spend six months receiving counseling and seeking employment before reentering society.

A 2020 Montana primary absentee ballot
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

A Montana judge issued a ruling Tuesday that blocks the state from enforcing a voter-approved law restricting the collection of absentee ballots during elections.

 


This story is part of our series that looks at lasting ways Montana is adapting during the pandemic. It’s funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network.

Criminal justice system reformers for years have sought to reduce county jail and state prison populations in Montana. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process, mostly at county detention facilities across the state.

A 2020 Montana primary absentee ballot
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

With Montana's primary elections less than two weeks away, a judge temporarily blocked a voter-approved law that restricts collection of absentee ballots.

The U.S. District Court in Great Falls will allow a lawsuit from two women who claimed they were detained for speaking spanish to proceed against U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Montana Supreme Court Wednesday in Helena heard oral arguments from a lawsuit challenging immigration detentions in Lincoln County. The decision at a later date will have broad implications for the policy and practice of sheriffs across the state. 

Martha Hernández (left) and Ana Suda were detained for 40 minutes in 2018 by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in Havre.
Brook Swaney / ACLU of Montana

Lawyers for United States Customs and Border Protection asked a federal judge in Great Falls on Wednesday to toss out a case involving a federal agent questioning two women for speaking Spanish in Havre.

Martha Hernández (left) and Ana Suda were detained for 40 minutes in 2018 by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in Havre.
Brook Swaney / ACLU of Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A woman who is suing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection after an agent questioned her and a friend for speaking Spanish in a convenience store said Friday the backlash to their lawsuit has forced them to move away from their small Montana city.

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