Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fortress of Solitude - WESTWORD

ALAN PRENDERGAST -A hundred miles southwest of Denver, the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum houses a killer lineup of mobsters (Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano), gang leaders (Barry "The Baron" Mills), assassins (Colombian hit man Dandenis "La Quica" Muñoz Mosquera) and terrorists (John "American Taliban" Walker Lindh). But not to worry — despite some embarrassing security breaches and two inmate homicides in the past two years, ADX has never had anything close to a breakout. It's probably the most escape-proof prison in the world.

For almost six years, it's also been media-proof. High-security prisoners are locked away in the Florence supermax, out of sight and mind — and reporters can't get in to see them, no matter how hard they try.

According to documents obtained by Westword, ADX officials have denied every single media request for a face-to-face interview with supermax prisoners from January 2002 through May 2007. It doesn't matter if the request comes from a major news organization or a humble local TV station; it doesn't matter if the prisoner is a high-profile resident or an obscure career criminal. Contrary to bureau policy, prison brass have turned down every journalist, citing boilerplate "security concerns" if no handier excuse is available.

Blanket denial of access appears to have started after the September 11 attacks. When Westword sought an interview with inmate Thomas Silverstein last spring, ADX warden Ron Wiley refused. The BOP "makes every effort" to accommodate media requests, Wiley explained, but "granting your request at this time may disrupt the good order and security of this institution."

Silverstein hasn't been granted a face-to-face with any journalist for more than a decade. But further inquiry revealed that Wiley wasn't turning us down because of who the subject was; prison spokesman Isidro Garcia acknowledged that the cited security concerns applied to any interview with any prisoner.

So when was the last time ADX allowed a prisoner to be interviewed? Garcia said he wasn't authorized to release that information.

After months of Freedom of Information Act requests and side battles, the answer finally arrived. There have been exactly 100 media requests to visit ADX since 2002, and Wiley and his predecessors have denied every single one. In fact, one of the last interviews to be conducted inside the supermax before the total media ban was Westword's visit with La Quica in 2001, four months before the September 11 attacks ("The Hit Man Nobody Knows," May 17, 2001).


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