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.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Coming Straight Home From Solitary Damages Inmates and their Families

The thing Sara Garcia remembers from the day her son, Mark, got out of prison was the hug — the very, very awkward hug. He had just turned 21 and for the past two and a half years, he'd been in solitary confinement.

"He's not used to anyone touching him," Garcia says. "So he's not used to hugs. And I mean we grabbed him. I mean, we hugged him. We held him. I mean, it was just surreal to just know I can finally give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek."

Mark, who was released directly from solitary confinement into his mother's arms, is one of tens of thousands of inmates that NPR and The Marshall Project — a journalism group that focuses on the criminal justice system — found as part of a state-by-state survey. We wanted to know: How many people are released directly from solitary confinement to the streets?

There were at least 10,000 in 2014. That's from information provided by just 24 states. The other 26 states — as well as the federal prison system — say they don't count, or couldn't provide, numbers.
Often, inmates in solitary confinement serve all or most of their sentence. So when they are released, they don't get parole services to help with re-entry that's offered to most ex-prisoners.

Mental health experts and researchers say that long stays in solitary confinement often emotionally damage people, both teens and adults, and can create lifelong mental illness. When those prisoners come home, they often struggle to get along with people, including the family members they depend upon most.

Prison officials say they need solitary confinement to control the most violent prisoners. In Texas, for example, it's used often to break up prison gangs.

Garcia's son went to a Texas prison for robbing a store with a gun. At the time, he was 14. She says that her son was manipulated by some older men; prosecutors say he acted alone.

Just days after he turned 18, Mark was moved to an adult prison. When his mother came to visit, he told her that he was afraid of the older inmates.

More From This Investigation

This story was reported in partnership between NPR News Investigations and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Continue reading this investigation on The Marshall Project's website: From Solitary To The Street. You can read the first part of the NPR report here.

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