Half of 33 Colorado parolees who committed or have been charged with murder since 2002 spent time in solitary confinement, the Denver Post reports in the second in a series. Many were there for years. Several went either directly from solitary to the streets or had only weeks to interact with people before their release to Colorado communities. The state has 650 prisoners now in solitary confinement, or what prison officials call administrative segregation. In the last year, 110 inmates went straight from their solitary cells to the street, down from more than 200 the previous year.
Corrections officials say the number of inmates released directly from segregation can never be zero. For prisoners who attack and threaten other inmates and guards, there is no other choice, officials said. And prisons cannot legally keep inmates longer than their mandatory release date, unless they have been convicted and sentenced to more time for prison crimes. All that’s left when a segregated prisoner is paroled is intensive supervision by a parole officer. “It’s almost like you have to hand deliver them to a mental-health clinic,” said corrections consultant James Austin. “They should have pretty frequent contacts with parole officers, and local police should know to keep an eye on them. That’s about the best you can do.”