Angel Coronado often can be found outside his family’s trailer north of the Mexican border in Texas, staring blankly at a nearby hayfield, says USA Today. Since he spent nearly two years in solitary confinement in a Texas prison for an assault conviction, Coronado, 22, seems to have lost touch with much of the world around him, his mother says. USA Today reported in 2002 on Coronado’s hopes of getting a construction job after his release. Fewer than 10 percent of the more than 600,000 felons released from prison each year were in solitary confinement and received little or no rehabilitation, but they are among the most dangerous or troubled prisoners to be freed.
Of the nine felons who were released from solitary confinement in Texas on Nov. 15, 2002, seven have got into trouble again. Coronado was caught breaking into a garage.”When they do get out, they don’t survive on the outside for very long,” says Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “These environments require people to develop survival strategies to get them through the days, weeks and years” in isolation. “They are utterly dysfunctional when they get out.” In a $1.9 million pilot project funded by the Justice Department, Texas is tracking 46 offenders who have been released from isolation since October. As part of the project, prisoners are shown instructional videos in their cells. The lessons in the videos include reacquainting prisoners with basic current events and hygiene. The program, which director Donna Gilbert says is the nation’s first, provides felons freed from solitary confinement with mentors and case managers to help them find housing and jobs.