Colorado Rights Blog


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CDOC Takes Step Toward Getting Mentally Ill Prisoners Out of Solitary

December 12, 2013

In a memo provided to the ACLU of Colorado by the Colorado Department of Corrections, all wardens were instructed to no longer refer prisoners that have been designated to have a major mental illness to administrative segregation. Administrative segregation is long-term placement in solitary confinement, in which prisoners are denied all meaningful human contact and must remain alone in barren metal cells in excess of 23 hours per day.

Statement of ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace
“The ACLU of Colorado commends the Colorado Department of Corrections for taking a momentous step toward ending the practice of managing seriously mentally ill prisoners with long-term solitary confinement.

“The ACLU of Colorado has campaigned for changes to CDOC’s use of solitary confinement, and particularly to end prolonged solitary confinement of seriously mentally ill prisoners, for several years.

“Barring seriously mentally ill prisoners from administrative segregation is an enormous step in the right direction, but it addresses only one of several demands the ACLU has made of CDOC on this issue. There is still much important work to be done.

“As an initial matter, we remain concerned that the definition of major mental illness adopted by CDOC is too narrow and that there are still prisoners in administrative segregation who are seriously mentally ill and should not be placed in prolonged solitary confinement.

“Second, as the ACLU of Colorado film Out of Sight, Out of Mind, about CDOC prisoner Sam Mandez showed, there are prisoners in CDOC’s mental health treatment program that are stuck in low levels of the program and still confined in solitary conditions. CDOC must ensure that all seriously mentally ill prisoners have a minimum of twenty hours out of cell time every week, including 10 hours of therapeutic activity.

“Third, CDOC’s mental health treatment programs must be fully staffed to provide adequate out of cell time and therapy.

“Finally, we have asked that CDOC adopt policies to require mental health involvement in disciplinary decisions related to seriously mentally ill prisoners.

“We are hopeful that Director Raemish and his executive team are and will remain real partners for change.”

CDOC memo –

Out of Sight, Out of Mind – The Story of Sam Mandez –

Read our report on mentally ill Colorado prisoners in solitary confinement.

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