Colorado bans solitary confinement for longer than 15 days

By Kathleen Foody, The Associated Press

DENVER — Inmates in state prisons can’t be held in solitary confinement for more than 15 days, the Colorado Department of Corrections announced on Thursday in the latest effort to overhaul a practice criticized as “torture” by the agency’s chief.

The changes also require that inmates who are held in solitary confinement at the discretion of prison officials get at least four hours per day outside a cell for recreation or group classes.

Colorado officials in 2011 began efforts to cut the number of people held in solitary confinement. Former state corrections director Tom Clements also tried to make it easier for people once held there to re-enter society and closed a new prison built specifically to house solitary-confinement prisoners, the still-vacant Colorado State Penitentiary II in Canon City in southern Colorado.

Further changes followed Clements’ death in 2013 after he was shot by Evan Ebel, a former inmate who had spent much of his eight years’ imprisonment in solitary confinement.

The issue is a deeply personal one for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was close friends with Clements. Ebel’s father, attorney Jack Ebel, had testified two years before the slaying that solitary confinement was destroying his son’s psyche. And Hickenlooper mentioned the case to Clements as an example of why the prison system needed reform before offering Clements the job.

Rick Raemisch, who replaced Clements as the state prisons chief, continued his predecessor’s work on solitary confinement. In 2014, Raemisch received national attention for spending 20 hours inside a solitary cell and later wrote that the experience inspired his push to eliminate or at least reduce the practice.

In an op-ed published online Thursday by The New York Times, Raemisch wrote that prisons’ reliance on solitary confinement to punish inmates for a variety of offenses “created consequences we didn’t foresee,” …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

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