Solitary Confinement Decreased By Hundreds In Colorado

Over 400 Colorado inmates have been transferred out of solitary confinement in the last year, according to a report by the Denver Post.

The transfer comes after the March closing of Fort Lyon Correctional Facility, before the closure of Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City and after a lawsuit wrapped up earlier this month on the case of Troy Anderson.

Anderson, 42, has been held in isolation in the Colorado State Penitentiary for over 10 years after being convicted of attempted murder. Closing arguments for lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by students at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law were heard in early May asking for prison officials to provide Anderson with adequate mental health treatment.

The lawsuit claimed that Anderson was not properly diagnosed and has a mental condition that leads to panic attacks and behavior that prompted prison officials to place him in administrative segregation.

Colorado is one of a growing number of prisons across the country that have been rethinking their position on solitary confinement. A study published in Nov. 2011 by the National Institute of Corrections Prisons Division found that Colorado had an above average percentage of inmates being held in solitary confinement regardless of their mental states and that over 40 percent of them are later directly released into the community.

"The very existence of this report may signal that the Colorado Department of Corrections is ready for a significant change," Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado told the Huffington Post when the study was published. "It's change that's long overdue."

That same year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Mendez called for the end of solitary confinement except for in exceptional cases, and even then not in excess of 15 days.

"Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit, whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique," Mendez said.

In his report, Mendez estimated that the U.S. holds 20,000-25,000 prisoners in solitary confinement, more than in any other democratic country.

Colorado's decrease in the amount of inmates held in isolation is also part of an attempt to allow prisoners more educational opportunities, according to the Associated Press.

[Flickr photo via Flickr: ProfAlliRich]