Solitary Confinement Reform Challenges Spotlight Mental Health Care Need
October 18, 2023
By: Vincent Atchity
A new law went into effect in July 2022 that limits how Colorado jails and prisons can use solitary confinement for people with certain mental and physical health needs. Some advocates saw the law as a small step forward toward the elimination of solitary confinement, which is associated with numerous health risks including increased suicide risk. Those advocates are right. It would be a small step forward, but only if it were fully implemented.
Full implementation, however, is difficult to accomplish in many, perhaps most, counties. For example, Boulder County Jail, where more than half of the individuals incarcerated have a clinically diagnosed mental health condition, is so far unable to implement the law. Infrastructure issues and workforce shortcomings, along with gaps and failures across local health care partnerships, continue to leave Boulder County Jail in the untenable position of relying upon harmful segregation and isolation as the crude, blunt tool for preventing harm more than a year after the new law went into effect.
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