CO Prison Chief Ready For Reform After A Night In Solitary Confinement

Colorado’s new executive director for the state’s Department of Corrections detailed his time in solitary confinement in an op-ed this week and said it has prompted him to re-think aspects of the prison system.

The executive director, Rick Raemisch, described spending 20 hours in solitary confinement to get a “better sense of what solitary confinement was like, and what it did to the prisoners who were housed there, sometimes for years.”

Raemisch recounted his time in solitary confinement, which is nicknamed Ad Seg in Colorado, in an op-ed piece for The New York Times on Thursday. Raemisch wrote that he quickly lost track of time and described in vivid detail the toll the random checks by guards took on a prisoner in Ad Seg:

According to the Ad Seg rules, within every 24-hour period there are five scheduled counts and at least two random ones. They are announced over the intercom and prisoners must stand with their feet visible to the officer as he looks through the door’s small window. As executive director, I praise the dedication, but as someone trying to sleep and rest my mind — forget it. I learned later that a number of inmates make earplugs out of toilet paper.

When 6:15 a.m. and breakfast finally came, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, did two sets of push-ups, and made my bed. I looked out my small window, saw that it was still dark outside, and thought, now what?

After his brief time there, Raemisch continued in the Times piece, he felt a stronger need for reform of the solitary confinement system.

“If we can’t eliminate solitary confinement, at least we can strive to greatly reduce its use. Knowing that 97 percent of inmates are ultimately returned to their communities, doing anything less would be both counterproductive and inhumane,” Raemisch wrote.

Read the whole op-ed here.

Image: Shutterstock / Fer Gregory