Solitary Confinement creates more problems for Colorado than it’s Worth
As the former Chief of Psychiatry for Colorado’s state prisons, I can tell you that solitary confinement doesn’t play out like we imagine. It doesn’t always house only “the worst of the worst” — but it subjects prisoners, especially those who are mentally ill, to a kind of cruel and unusual punishment. They spend two, three, or four year stretches in solitary with virtually no human contact. There are no victories; no Shawshank Redemption. Solitary confinement is not redemptive. And warehousing prisoners who are mentally ill in solitary confinement, well, that’s just a losing proposition.
In this legislative session, a bill has been introduced that would change the landscape of solitary confinement for prisoners with serious mental illness and produce a savings in dollars and dignity. Senate Bill 176 asks that DOC take more mental health resources right where needed most; right to the steel door that separates a prisoner who is mentally ill from both sanity and humanity. It asks that fewer inmates be placed in solitary confinement and that more receive
mental health treatment. It also asks that a step-down process be put in place so inmates leaving solitary can re-adjust to living with other people before they are released back to Colorado’s communities; back to your neighborhoods.
The time for these statutory changes is now. It’s been proven that the extended solitary confinement of mentally ill prisoners is creating a much bigger problem for Colorado than the state ever imagined. You must take legislative action to mitigate it.
Dr. Mark Diamond
Diamond, who operates a private forensic psychiatry practice in Lake Oswego, Oregon, was the Colorado Department of Corrections Chief of Psychiatry from 1995-2004.