Attorneys for Troy Anderson, a mentally ill inmate in isolation at the Colorado State Penitentiary, argue that prolonged solitary confinement is contributing to a vicious cycle, making his psychiatric conditions worse and resulting in misbehavior that warrants further punishment, reports the Associated Press. Prison officials defend the practice, saying administrative segregation, which can include up to 23 hours a day in a concrete cell, is a fundamental part of security.
Art Leonardo of the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents says keeping prisoners away from the general population is a way to “keep them from being harmed.” Prisoners’ rights advocates say putting mentally ill inmates in long-term solitary confinement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. In some states, activists are pushing court challenges to get convicts out of isolation. Long-term isolation has “become an integral part of how we manage prisons in this country,” says David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union. There are no statistics detailing how many inmates are considered mentally ill. Similarly, there is no official estimate as to how many inmates are placed in solitary confinement.