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Freeman Claims Yellowstone County Jail Violated His Civil Rights.
by Clair Johnson - July 30, 1996
A Freeman held in the Yellowstone County jail claims that a recent crackdown on Freemen who have refused to cooperate with booking procedures goes far beyond what was reported last week.
Stewart D. Waterhouse, who in a letter to The Billings Gazette identified himself as "Lt. Col." and a "POW," said that for the jail to withhold items or violate their civil rights in an effort to coerce them violates state law.
Sheriff's Lt. Tim Neiter said he didn't think Waterhouse's rights were being violated. He said he would check into some of Waterhouse's complaints, noting that there is a complaint process for inmates.
Last Wednesday, the jail cut privileges to Freemen who have refused to cooperate with the booking process, which includes fingerprints, mug shots and personal information like height, age, medical history and employment.
That means no television, no phone calls, no visits and no goodies from the canteen. Inmates can buy candy bars, coffee, Tang, cups of noodles and other items like paper, stamps and personal hygiene goods from the canteen. The jail supplies writing materials and hygiene items, but inmates can buy their own from the canteen if they don't like the jail's items.
The Freemen are locked in their cells 23 hours a day, with one hour out. They continue to have access to law books and to the mail.
Neiter said Tuesday that none of the uncooperative Freemen has decided to cooperate.
"They're not giving up anything. They're pretty stubborn," he said. "I don't believe they care for it much."
Another inmate who is under 23-hour lockdown wrote to The Gazette saying that nothing had changed for the Freemen, whom he called "clowns," and claims he saw two of them watching television.
Neiter said the Freemen are locked down and that if some were watching TV, they probably got caught by a guard.
Waterhouse claimed he'd been locked down in a cell with another Freemen "going on 48 hours and haven't had an hour out. And forget the 'candy bars,' I am being denied stamps and thus we are denied 'mail' as well."
Waterhouse said his letter to The Gazette was "posted through a crack and mailed by a sympathetic inmate."
The jail, Waterhouse said, will not allow postage stamps to be mailed to them, and now he has been prohibited from buying stamps from the canteen. Further, he said some incoming mail is being seized and withheld, including family photos, a letter from his daughter, a Bible and legal papers.
"And the assertion we have access to a law library is an out and out lie!" he said.
"Our refusal to volunteer fingerprints is our 4th, 5th and 9th Amendment right," he said. Further, Waterhouse said, the jail already has his photo and fingerprints but is demanding that he answer certain questions and sign various papers, which he says he has a constitutional right to refuse to do.
Neiter said he doubted Waterhouse was denied his hour out. "We give people their hour," he said. Inmates are offered their hour, and it's up to them to use it, he said.
Waterhouse also can buy stamps, Neiter said. But because of a contraband problem a few years ago, the jail restricts how stamps are handled. The jail also provides stamps for indigent inmates.
Neiter said there may have been a misunderstanding with some new staff as to what canteen orders can be refused and that he would look into the matter.
The jail allows religious books, but again, has certain restrictions, Neiter said. For example, an older Bible with a broken spine may not be allowed because contraband could be smuggled inside.
Inmates are limited to four books or magazines at a time in their cell and to five pictures. Neiter said the picture limit was invoked after one inmate had about 100 photographs in his cell.
With two people housed in cells designed for one person, the jail can't allow "pounds and pounds of paper in a cell," Neiter said.
All incoming mail is pre-opened unless it is marked as bona fide, legal mail, in which case it is opened in front of the inmate, Neiter said. Some mail may not be delivered to the inmate, depending on its contents, he said.
As for a law library, Neiter said the jail has no law library. The jail has sets of the Montana code books and has made arrangements with the law library in the federal building to borrow two law books with codes pertaining to the Freemen cases, Neiter said. The inmates may check out the books for 48 hours at a time.
The jail has accommodated the Freemen by buying some volumes of Black's Law Dictionary but drew the line at supplying law books from the early to mid-1800s, Neiter said.
"I'm sorry. Let's keep it to the realm of the living," he said. "I'm
just not going to wheel 100 books into the cell."
by Clair Johnson, The Billings Gazette, 1996 The Billings Gazette
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