Thursday, September 6, 2012

Colorado judge: Solitary confinement violates 8th Amend.

A recent ruling by a federal judge in Denver struck down Colorado's use of solitary confinement and ordered prison officials to allow inmates "to exercise in a place with no roof where the rain can fall on him and the wind can blow at him," according to the Denver Post.

"The Eighth Amendment does not mandate comfortable prisons," U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in his ruling, "but it does forbid inhumane conditions."

Troy Anderson's treatment, Jackson wrote, was "a paradigm of inhumane treatment."

The ruling could have widespread impact, according to the Post.

The Colorado State Penitentiary, or CSP for short, is the most restrictive prison in the state system and is used to house the state's most dangerous inmates. Prisoners are kept in their cells for at least 23 hours a day. Meals come through a slot in the cell door. The only window in the cell is difficult to look through.

There are 756 inmates at the prison, according to the Department of Corrections. Anderson, who has spent most of his adult life in prison for crimes that include a shootout with police, is one of nine inmates who have been housed in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, according to Jackson's ruling, reported the Post.

Jackson noted in his ruling that one prison expert who testified at trial in the case said CSP is the only prison in the nation that does not provide true outdoor exercise for inmates. Instead, across the country, prisons are rethinking the use of prolonged solitary confinement.

"CDOC officials," Jackson wrote, "know that CSP is out of step with the rest of the nation."

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