The ACLU white paper, A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row, is at the link.
"ACLU uncovers increased proportion of mentally ill inmates in solitary," is by Jennifer Brown for the Denver Post.
Nearly 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.
An 18-month study by the ACLU of Colorado also found the proportion of mentally ill prisoners held in solitary confinement increased from 2011 to 2012, even as the state prison system decreased the overall number of inmates in solitary.
Prisoners with moderate to severe mental illness now make up the majority of those in solitary, also called "administrative segregation," according to the report, obtained by The Denver Post and to be released Tuesday. The 87 prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary have diseases including schizophrenia and severe depression.
There were 684 prisoners in administrative segregation as of June 30, or 3.9 percent of the inmate population, according to the corrections department.
One reason so many mentally ill inmates are in solitary is that the Colorado prison system has a severe shortage of psychiatrists, falling well short of national recommendations, according to the report.
"It is clear that one of the Colorado Department of Corrections' methods of managing the scores of mentally ill prisoners under its charge is to confine them in administrative segregation," says the report, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind."
"We have not seen a commitment from the department that says 'we agree we need to move all seriously mentally ill prisoners out of solitary confinement,' " said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. "We will continue to press the Department of Corrections."
The Boulder Daily Camera posts AP coverage, "ACLU: Most mentally ill inmates held in solitary confinement."
The ACLU said the percentage of mentally ill prisoners held in solitary confinement increased from about 46 percent in 2011 to nearly 58 percent in 2012, while the total number of prisoners in solitary declined.
Department of Corrections officials said they had not reviewed the report and would not comment on specifics.
The prison system has made significant improvements in the last year in the way it handles mentally ill prisoners, and those changes are just beginning to register in the statistics, they said.
The changes include a new, 240-bed residential treatment program inside Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City.
Eighteen inmates were moved into the program in the past two weeks, said Kellie Wasko, director of clinical and correctional services for the Department of Corrections.
The ACLU study said one reason so many mentally ill inmates were held in solitary was a shortage of psychiatrists in the prison system.
The department has 11 psychiatrists, and the Legislature approved hiring 13 more.
But even if all the new positions are filled, Colorado would have one psychiatrist per 166 inmates, below the nationally recommended guideline of one per 150 inmates.
"The Case Against Solitary Confinement," is by Sarah Shourd for the Daily Beast.
It’s the most extreme isolation in the history of humankind: some 80,000 people in America’s prisons are being held in solitary confinement. They are people who haven’t shared a meal with someone else for years. Others haven’t experienced physical contact—or even seen a tree—for decades. They are isolated from almost everything, living in small, box-like cells surrounded by high walls and heavily guarded fences.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in there with him,” Dolores Canales says about her son, who has been in isolation in a California prison for more than 12 years. “I feel his loneliness all these years…it’s too much sometimes.”
I have first-hand experience with solitary confinement. Beginning in 2009, I was held in a solitary cell for 410 days by the Iranian government, alongside my now-husband Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal. During that time, I was never allowed to meet with my lawyer, never taken to court and it was six months before authorities let me call my mother to tell her I was alive. They told me I couldn’t have a cellmate because I wouldn’t be safe, but during 13 months of isolation, I was never safe from my own mind.
I now work as a contributing editor for Solitary Watch, which monitors those people currently held in isolated confinement in the United States—a population higher than that of any other country in the world.
Earlier coverage of solitary confinement conditions begins with coverage of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project's white paper.