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.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Solitary Confinement on Trial in Colorado

Mother Jones

Troy Anderson lives in Cañon City, a high desert town in a dramatic setting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. But for more than a decade he has neither seen those mountains nor felt the sun on his skin. He spends 23 hours out of each day confined to an 8 x 12 isolation cell at the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP)—one of the state’s supermax prisons—and the remaining hour in a bare exercise room. Well over half of his 42 years have been spent behind bars, most of them in what prison authorities euphemistically call “administrative segregation.” In practice, this means Anderson will remain in solitary confinement until prison officials feel it’s time to let him out.
Anderson has been in and out of jail since he was a juvenile on account of his erratic and sometimes violent behavior. In 2000, he was sentenced to 75 years for myriad charges stemming from two incidents in which he shot at police, the second time in an attempt to escape custody. Offenses committed in prison have landed him in “ad seg” at CSP. (His last disciplinary infraction was in 2005, when he was written up for somehow managing to get envelopes to another prisoner.)
But there’s more to the story. Anderson, like hundreds of other prisoners confined in isolation in Colorado—and thousands held in solitary across the nation—is seriously mentally ill. His diagnoses include bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, cognitive disorders, and a seizure disorder. He has attempted suicide many times, starting at age 10. He is seen periodically by prison psychiatrists, all of whom seem to concur that he needs therapy and medication. At CSP, however, his treatment has consisted of a fiasco of intermittent and inappropriate meds and scant therapy, typically conducted through a slot in his solid steel cell door.
Yet unlike most of those other prisoners languishing in solitary, Anderson is about to get his day in federal court. Beginning today, in a trial that could have broad implications for how states handle inmates with mental illness, Anderson’s lawyers will argue before the District Court in Denver that their client’s predicament violates his civil rights, under both the Constitution and federal law.
It was his untreated mental illness that first landed him at CSP, Anderson contends, and now the same symptoms are keeping him there indefinitely. Without proper treatment, he is unable to convince corrections officials that he’s fit for the general prison population. This Catch-22, his lawyers say, condemns him to an effective life sentence under conditions that are increasingly being denounced as a form of torture—particularly when applied to mentally ill prisoners.
Read the rest here.

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