A state prison inmate who filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against Yellowstone County alleging interference with his satanic religious beliefs has agreed to settle the case for $50.
Deputy County Attorney Kevin Gillen said the inmate, Jason Paul Indreland, has accepted the county’s offer that includes the cash amount and a commitment to review how jail inmate requests are processed at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
Indreland filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2008 while incarcerated at the county jail on pending felony drug charges. The lawsuit alleged he was illegally denied a satanic medallion he claimed was a “protective symbol,” denied access to a “Satanic Bible” or “Book of Satanic Rituals,” that jail staff placed Christian greeting cards under his cell door, and that he was held in maximum security due to his religious beliefs.
Indreland represented himself in the lawsuit, which sought $10 million in damages. The lawsuit named as defendants the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners and numerous sheriff’s office employees, including Sheriff Jay Bell.
Indreland was later convicted in state court of the drug offense for possessing 15 grams of methamphetamine. He is currently serving a sentence of five years with two years suspended.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby issued an order in January dismissing the individuals named in the lawsuit as defendants. She also dismissed three of Indreland’s four claims, saying he had failed to prove the allegations.
The medallion was denied because it was on a chain that jail staff said was too thick and could be used to choke someone, Ostby said. There was no proof that Indreland received Christian cards from jail staff, and Indreland was placed in maximum security for fighting, the judge said.
Indreland’s claim that he was illegally denied access to a satanic literature was the only issue remaining in the lawsuit, and Ostby ordered the two sides to attempt a settlement through mediation.
Gillen said that during the negotiations, he told the mediator that the county would not pay Indreland any amount to settle the lawsuit. But the mediator suggested that Indreland might consider a $50 settlement.
The settlement terms were accepted by Indreland and later approved by two of the three county commissioners, Gillen said. Commissioner Bill Kennedy was against the agreement, he said.
Gillen said the settlement is an example of why it is sometimes less expensive to settle a lawsuit than to take a case to trial.
The final agreement has yet to be signed and returned by Indreland, who was recently transferred from the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby to the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
Gillen said the county agreed to review jail inmate request procedures because the basis for denying Indreland’s request for satanic literature was not fully explained to him. Such literature is not allowed in prisons and jails across the country, Gillen said, because it promotes violence.