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.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Colorado Prisons' Solitary Problem

The Denver Post
Colorado keeps a distressingly high number of its prisoners in solitary confinement — seven times the national average.
Also troubling is that more than one in five are mentally ill.
The Colorado Department of Corrections seems poised to do something about this situation, and we're glad to see it.
However, the budgetary reality of public policy in Colorado makes us wonder whether there is enough money for treatment that might keep some of the mentally ill fit enough to stay in the general prison population.
And it surely seems unlikely the folks at the Capitol are going to be able to cobble together much in the way of additional funding for community-based mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
That's unfortunate because it seems like a logical way to address troubled people before they commit crimes.
We look forward to seeing how the DOC will address the situation.
The issue of prisoners held in solitary — or administration segregation, in DOC language — came to light as a result of outside complaints that it was being used as a long-term plan for dealing with the mentally ill.
To its credit, the DOC commissioned a study of the situation. The two consultants who examined Colorado's system had helped the Mississippi Department of Corrections decrease its number of prisoners in solitary from 950 to 150.
Not only is such a decrease often a more humane way of treating prisoners, it's also a money saver.
Colorado houses nearly 1,500 prisoners in solidary confinement. The report the DOC commissioned says more than 20 percent of them are mentally ill.
The Colorado American Civil Liberties Union, which has been pushing for reform on this issue, contends many inmates are put into solitary because mental and behavioral health programs have been eliminated or reduced because of lack of funds.
In testimony before the state legislature earlier this year, the ACLU cited figures that showed it costs a lot more to house inmates in solitary.
A DOC spokeswoman, who said prisoners who are housed alone still get visits from prison staff, couldn't provide us with the cost differential, but acknowledged it's significant.
If the state were able to move some of those inmates out of solitary, it could save Colorado a lot of money.
The state might then also be able to provide better transitional program opportunities for these inmates so they are better prepared for living in the outside world when their release date comes up.

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