WINNER, S.D. — A man held at the Winner City Jail earlier this year has sued the city, alleging he was denied legal resources and was forced to sleep and eat on a wet floor in an overcrowded cell block.
In a complaint filed with a federal court on Oct. 16, Matthew Kurtenbach, who was held on federal charges in the jail, requested that the court issue a declaration that his constitutional rights were violated, an injunction prohibiting the jail from maintaining overcrowded conditions and a monetary award to be determined by a jury.
The complaint states that from June 10-12, Kurtenbach was housed in the jail’s B100 cell block, which has 18 bunks and 16 chairs at tables where inmates eat. Kurtenbach asserted that while he was in the jail, about 30 people were being kept in that cell block, and many had to eat and sleep on the floor as a result.
According to the complaint, Kurtenbach’s rights under the due process clause and his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment were violated when he was made to eat and sleep in a wet environment on the floor near the block’s shower.
Pending resolution of a petition to revoke his federal probation, Kurtenbach was held at the Winner City Jail, one of several jails in the state that contracts with the federal government to house federal detainees and inmates.
Kurtenbach was convicted of distribution of a controlled substance by a federal court in March 2018 and was sentenced to time served and 36 months of supervised release. On May 6 of this year, a petition to revoke Kurtenbach’s supervised release was filed, alleging that Kurtenbach had used methamphetamine in several eastern South Dakota cities and a county in Minnesota and that he had been involved in an assault in Watertown.
In addition to the time he spent there in June, Kurtenbach was housed in the Winner City Jail from Sept. 10-31. On Sept. 21, prior to suing the city of Winner, Kurtenbach was sentenced to eight months in prison after admitting to violating his probation. According to a Federal Bureau of Prisons database, he is currently being held at a facility in Minneapolis.
Kurtenbach’s complaint alleges that while in the jail in September, he was prevented from accessing either a law library or someone with legal training. He argued that harmed him by not allowing him to learn how best to proceed with an unrelated pending civil case he filed against state officials.
While the lawsuit against the city of Winner focuses on experiences Kurtenbach said he had at the Winner City Jail, he also alleged that jail practices allow similar incidents to occur routinely. Winner officials were not available to comment on the lawsuit prior to the publication of this story.
Mitchell newspaper The Daily Republic identified five other federal prisoner civil rights cases involving the Winner City Jail, all of which were filed between 2009 and 2012. All alleged that the plaintiffs hadn’t received adequate medical care while incarcerated, rather than making complaints against living conditions in the jail. Of those cases, four were dismissed, and judgment was filed in the defendants’ favor in the other.