By Christopher Zoukis / Prison Legal News

Rick Raemisch, Colorado’s new corrections director, wanted to better understand the experience of solitary confinement – so he spent a night in segregation at a state prison.

Raemisch had been on the job for seven months when he decided to stay overnight in an ad seg cell at the Colorado State Penitentiary. “I thought he was crazy,” said Warden Travis Trani, who added, “I also admired him for wanting to have the experience.” Trani received only nine hours notice that his boss was arriving for an extended visit.

On January 23, 2014, just after 7:00 p.m., Raemisch, handcuffed and shackled and wearing a prison uniform, entered cell 22. He was classified as “RFP,” or “Removed From Population.” After being uncuffed through the food slot he was left alone in the 7-by-13-foot cell.

In an editorial published in The New York Times on February 20, Raemisch said the experience was challenging.

“First thing you notice is that it’s anything but quiet. You’re immersed in a drone of garbled noise: other inmates, blaring TVs, distant conversations, shouted arguments. I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and was left feeling twitchy and paranoid,” he wrote. “I kept waiting for the lights to turn off, to signal the end of the day. But the lights did not shut off. I began to count the small holes carved in the walls. Tiny grooves made by inmates who’d chipped away at the cell as the cell chipped away at them. For a sound mind, those are daunting circumstances. But every prison in America has become a dumping ground for the mentally ill, and often the ‘worst of the worst,’ some of society’s most unsound minds, are dumped in Ad Seg.”

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

It’s a typical dreary January winter morning at a Colorado state penitentiary.  Sounds of shackled feet are heard shuffling down a long dark hallway that leads to solitary confinement, also known as Ad Seg. The only background noise is the chilling sound of howling disgruntled inmates. His arms handcuffed and his legs shackled, Rick makes his way to solitary confinement, a place where time stands still and the mentally sane can be driven into the world of insanity.  

A mesh bag filled with toiletries is the only item the correctional officer brings to cell No. 22 where Rick will be confined for the next 20 hours. Toiletries are the only items permitted in the 7 by 13 ft. tiny cell, scantily furnished by a small cot, sink, and toilet all made of cold steel and fastened to the floor.

Rick will have to survive in his cell without any type of entertainment including books, magazines or television. In “Removed From Population” (R.F.P.) inmates are not allowed these items. However, in regular Ad. Seg. inmates can pass the time watching T.V. and reading books.

After a lingering stroll to the cell where Rick will spend time in solitary confinement, correctional officers remove his shackles and slam the heavy steel door behind him. Rick experiences one moment of silence before his feed tray door is banged open and he is ordered to place his hands through the narrow opening and his handcuffs are abruptly removed. The reality of being in solitary confinement settles into Rick’s mind.

Rick hasn’t even been charged with a crime. But, he will only spend 20 hours locked in the dismal cell located on the second floor and he requested his extended visit at the Colorado penitentiary.

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By Christopher Zoukis In a surprise move, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to settle in the solitary confinement practices case of Peoples v. Fischer.  The December 2012 case, brought by New York state inmate Leroy Peoples and litigated by the New York Civil Liberties Union, asserted that New York state prisons’ solitary confinement practices…

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By Jean Trounstine This past February 25th, a panel of experts on solitary confinement converged at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to discuss the horrendous practice in our U.S. prisons that many call “cruel and unusual punishment.” While the panel detailed the disastrous effects such isolation causes, the legal challenges through the years and the…

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