The Denver Post endorses a ruling by a federal judge that solitary confinement in prison without outdoor exercise can be cruel and unusual punishment. Law students at the University of Denver and their advisers filed uit on behalf of Troy Anderson, who has been an inmate in the Colorado prison system for all but three years since 1991. His crimes included getting into a shootout with police. For much of his incarceration, Anderson has been in solitary confinement, alone in his cell 23 hours a day.
Five times a week, solitary inmates get about an hour in an exercise room, which has two openings to the outdoors, 5 feet tall by 6 inches wide, that are covered with a grate. U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson was asked to rule on a number of issues, including whether the lack of true outdoor exercise constituted cruel and unusual punishment, whether the state prison system was providing Anderson adequate mental health treatment and whether Anderson was facing insurmountable barriers to earning his way out of solitary. The judge ruled against Anderson on all but the outdoor exercise issue. He called the denial a “serious deprivation of a human need.” As the judge noted, Colorado prison officials know their solitary confinement policies are out of step with the rest of the nation’s. They must fix them, including the matter of outdoor exercise, says the Post.