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ACLU Charges Officials Brutalized Inmates After Riot

November 2, 1991

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ Corrections officers beat, kicked and tormented inmates for days after a riot that left five dead at the Montana State Prison in September, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

The warden, the deputy warden and even Gov. Stan Stephens witnessed mistreatment but did nothing to stop it, said Scott Crichton, executive director of the Montana ACLU.

Crichton called on the governor Friday to reassign Warden Jack McCormick and Deputy Warden Gary Weer.

Stephens denied seeing any brutality and described as baseless the ACLU’s charges that inmates were herded through a gantlet of up to 100 officers wielding clubs and chains.

″There aren’t that many corrections officers in the entire western United States,″ he said.

State Corrections Director Curt Chisholm said he was ordered by the FBI not to comment. He said Thursday that the Justice Department and FBI had agreed to a state request to investigate possible civil rights violations.

McCormick did not reply to a message left at the prison in Deer Lodge, and Weer was said to be away from the prison.

A small group of inmates took over the prison’s maximum-security building for several hours on Sept. 22. The rioters murdered five informants who were in protective custody, before an assualt team regained control of the building.

The assault team ordered inmates to strip, cuffed their hands behind their backs and forced them to lie on the floor in broken glass and water, Crichton said.

″One inmate was shot in the head with bird shot while cuffed and naked,″ he said.

The inmates, most of whom were not involved in the riot, were forced barefoot down a hallway filled with broken glass to the gantlet of officers, while the warden and deputy warden looked on, Crichton said.

The inmates were kept naked for four days and were denied contact with their attorneys until Sept. 26, Crichton said. Inmates still are allowed to contact lawyers only once a month with illegally monitored calls, he said.

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