ACLU Of Colorado Finds Growing Number Of Mentally Ill Put In Solitary Confinement In 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' Study

07/24/2013 03:26 pm ET | Updated Jul 25, 2013
AP

Since the death of the Colorado Prisons Chief Tom Clements, the ACLU of Colorado has found that even though the department of corrections has decreased the overall number of inmates held in solitary confinement, more and more of the seriously mentally ill are being placed in solitary confinement.

The 18-month study found that nearly 90 of Colorado's seriously mentally ill prisoners have been housed in solitary confinement, that more than half of them have been living in isolation for over a year and that approximately 14 have been living in isolation for more than four years.

As recently as 2012, the report said that the average length of stay for mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement was 16 months.

"It is time for the state of Colorado to stop warehousing seriously mentally ill prisoners in long-term solitary confinement and to begin providing these prisoners with the intensive mental health treatment they need to allow them to be productive members of society upon release," the study reads, also pointing out that housing prisoners in solitary confinement can cost taxpayers twice as much as holding them in the general prison population.

CDOC officials told KOAA that they hadn't yet reviewed the report's findings and wouldn't comment.

Earlier this month, prison officials acknowledged that Clements' death was tied to their solitary confinement policies. Clements himself was known to have reservations about the high usage of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement. The CDOC refers to it as "ad-seg."

Under Clements, the number of prisoners released to parole directly from ad-seg dropped 24 percentage points.

Evan Ebel, the man suspected of killing Clements and 27-year-old Nathan Leon, had walked directly out of ad-seg and onto parole. Recently released toxicology results showed anti-anxiety drugs in Ebel's system.

In May, the CDOC released some of Ebel's prison grievances, and some of them even echoed Clements' worries.

"Do you have an obligation to the public to acclimatize 'dangerous' inmates to being around other human beings prior to releasing them into society after they have spent years in solitary confinement and if not why?" Ebel wrote.

“Evan Ebel was exactly what Tom warned us about every single day,” Roxane White, chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, told The Colorado Independent.

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