The Durango Herald 04/10/2011 | Solitary confinement Support effort to limit cruel punishment
State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, should soon vote on Senate Bill 176, a measure that would place limits on the use of solitary confinement in Colorado’s prisons. This bill is a call to our conscience, and we honor God when we courageously speak out against actions such as solitary confinement that harm the soul and safety of our communities.
Solitary confinement may sound merely like a long timeout for misbehaving prisoners. But in reality, it is far harsher than that, bordering on or even crossing the line to become cruel punishment. As religious leaders, we strongly believe that prolonged solitary confinement is immoral. It denies the innate human need for social interaction, and it works against the correctional system’s end goal of rehabilitation by undermining the mental health of the prisoners.
Take Anne Lawlor for example. She spent a year in solitary confinement while serving a five-year sentence at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility for writing bad checks. She says she was placed in solitary after reporting an incident of “guard-on-inmate rape.”
“I nearly lost my mind,” Lawlor testified before a Colorado Senate committee. “I was unable to tolerate noise, bright lights or human contact when I was released from the unit. I would shiver and panic.”
Lawlor is not mentally ill, yet she felt as though she was losing her mind. How much worse then would it be for individuals who already suffer from mental illness or developmental disabilities?
The Denver Post reported that Colorado Springs resident Gary Flakes testified that the two years he spent in solitary confinement “were two of the most desperate and defeating” of his life. “If I wasn’t totally damaged and anti-social before, I certainly was when I came out,” Flakes said.