Colorado Rights Blog

Rebecca T. Wallace By: Rebecca T. Wallace 3.18.2014

Re: “Leave solitary to prison officials,” March 12 editorial.

The Denver Post editorial board’s suggestion that Colorado leave the issue of solitary confinement to prison officials is an approach that has been tried for three decades and, until very recently, has failed.

Colorado Department of Corrections Director Rick Raemisch has made commendable progress toward reducing the use of prolonged solitary confinement, particularly for prisoners with serious mental illness. But change in DOC leadership at some point in the future is not merely a possibility; it is a certainty. Binding legislation with clear definitions is critical to ensure that future leadership does not use ambiguities in the law as currently drafted to drive Colorado back into the dark days when locking prisoners with serious mental illness in a box for 23-plus hours a day was viewed as sound correctional practice.

While the ACLU of Colorado supports the symbolic importance of the proposed solitary legislation and does not doubt the resolve of Raemisch, we encourage legislators to employ some skepticism in judging whether this legislation, without clear definitions, is sufficient to bind future administrations.

This letter to the editor appeared in the March 18th edition of Denver Post.

Original editorial can be found here.

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