A new report by the ACLU of Colorado finds that the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) continues to depend on long-term solitary confinement to manage prisoners suffering from mental illness.
According to the ACLU, Out of Sight, Out of Mind draws on 18 months of research, including interviews with prisoners, analysis of CDOC data, site visits, and review of prisoner health files and finds that, while the overall number of prisoners held in solitary confinement has decreased in recent years, the proportion of those prisoners who suffer from mental illnesses has increased.”
Of the findings, Rebecca Wallace, an attorney at the ACLU, writes that “[w]arehousing mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement is not only costly, cruel, and unlawful, its puts the public at serious risk. When mental illness goes untreated, or is made worse by solitary confinement, it can lead to criminal or antisocial actions once a prisoner is released, leaving the public to suffer the consequences.”
Solitary confinement in Colorado prisons means 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a small, windowless cell.
According to the Denver Post, “[n]early 90 Colorado prisoners with serious mental illness were locked in solitary confinement this year — and many had been there for at least four years — despite legal and expert recommendations that prisons stop “warehousing” the mentally ill in 23-hour-a-day isolation.”
For more information on Colorado’s use of solitary confinement on people with mental illness, read the entire report by the ACLU and check out the following fact sheet.
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