Canyon County Sheriff Chris Smith and Chief Deputy Gary Deulen continue to deny all allegations in the class-action lawsuit but agreed to several specific steps to address concerns voiced in the complaint.
In return, the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho agrees to drop the lawsuit. Both sides signed the agreement, which must be finalized by the signature of a federal judge.
“We are satisfied with the outcome on this,” ACLU-Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins said Friday. “We’re just waiting for the judge to sign off.”
“We commend the administrators for responding promptly to the concerns, and we feel they’ve dealt appropriately with it,” Hopkins said.
Smith and Deulen could not be reached for comment Friday. Sam Laugheed, chief civil deputy prosecutor for Canyon County, declined to comment until the judge signs the settlement.
As part of the settlement, the county will establish a zero-tolerance policy against “actual or threatened retaliation against prisoners.” Protected activities under the policy include submitting a grievance, contacting or attempting to contact an attorney or advocate about the situation, complaining or alerting officials about unsafe or unsanitary jail conditions and talking with other prisoners about jail conditions.
The county also agrees to train all jail staff, including administrators, about the policy and vows never to transfer an inmate for submitting a grievance. Whenever an inmate is transferred to another jail or a different living unit within the Canyon jail, staff will notify that inmate of the reasons for the transfer.
The ACLU, which previously sued Canyon County over conditions caused by chronic jail overcrowding, filed the class-action suit last November, alleging Deulen ordered that an inmate be transferred to a different facility in retaliation for the inmate filing numerous complaints and keeping in contact with the ACLU. The suit also alleged that Smith and Deulen “maintain a policy and practice of retaliating against prisoners who file grievances that allege unconstitutional conditions of confinement.”
In their formal response to the lawsuit, Deulen and Smith acknowledged the inmate’s complaints and transfer but said the action was not retaliatory. They also denied violating any inmate’s rights.
No money is called for in the settlement, although an agreement has yet to be reached concerning the ACLU’s attorney fees. The county paid the civil rights organization $190,000 in 2009 to cover lawyers’ fees in the ACLU’s previous Canyon jail lawsuit.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447