The Denver Post
A growing number of mentally ill inmates in Colorado are held in isolation cells and 40 percent of segregated inmates are released directly to the streets without transitional programming, experts found.
A report recently completed by outside consultants recommended that the Colorado Department of Corrections restrict how many inmates go to isolation and cycle them faster back into general population cells.
The consultants, Dr. James Austin of the National Institute of Corrections and Emmitt Sparkman, deputy commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, noted that Colorado prisons have nearly seven times more inmates in segregation than the national average.
DOC commissioned the review, which began with site visits to several high-security prisons in August, following complaints that mentally ill inmates were being warehoused in Colorado segregation cells.
"The department is committed to sound correctional management practices that promote both institutional safety and community safety," DOC executive director Tom Clements said.
DOC staff will review the findings and recommendations of the report by Austin and Sparkman and make changes accordingly, said Katherine Sanguinetti, DOC spokeswoman.
The report confirmed that now more than one out of five inmates in isolation are mentally ill. On average, Colorado inmates remain in an isolation cell for about two years, and only one in four are there as a result of violence directed at staff or other inmates.
The study came following outside complaints that DOC was using administrative segregation as a long-term holding strategy for mentally ill inmates.
"There are far too many people held in solitary confinement in Colorado and they are held there far too long," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
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.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Denver Post