by Chet Hardin
An amended version of Sen. Morgan Carroll's bill to radically alter the Colorado Department of Corrections' policy on the use of long-term solitary confinement was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday.
The Aurora Democrat had originally proposed to end, as the ACLU put it, "the all-too-common practice of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary confinement."
"The bill would require a mental health evaluation for prisoners before they are placed in solitary and permit such isolation only in extreme situations," the ACLU stated. "It also would support mental and behavioral health alternatives to solitary confinement through cost-saving mechanisms and ensure that prisoners are reintegrated into the general prison population before their community release."
As the Colorado Independent reported, the bill has been amended to no longer prohibit the DOC from placing certain mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement. Instead, it would fund mental health programs and change the justifications used to place a prisoner in solitary.
During negotiations on the bill, originally intended to radically change when and why prisoners are placed in solitary confinement, the Department of Corrections raised concerns that the bill might affect their ability to control public safety within institutions and said its prescriptive clauses might interfere with implementing recommendations they expect to receive from a review being conducted by the National Institute of Corrections.
“Since we last met, the Department of Corrections has applied for a grant.” Carroll opened. “The purpose of that grant was to do a complete overhaul of the [inmate] classification system including solitary confinement. This is very encouraging news from the department.”