Sterling prison murders blamed on staff indifference, misconduct

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James Bergman beat a child killer to death the first day they were put in a cell together. Additional photos below.
Court records and testimony prompted by a wave of inmate homicides at the Sterling Correctional Facility claim that SCF officers have repeatedly placed at-risk prisoners, particularly sex offenders, in life-threatening situations -- and that some staff have even celled deadly enemies together to "teach a lesson," fully expecting one inmate to attack another.

The result has been mayhem on a grand scale: Five inmate murders at Sterling in a two-
year period that ended in 2012. An internal investigation, with findings never made public, was ordered by prison chief Tom Clements before his own murder last year. A lawsuit was recently filed by one victim's family, with possibly more to come.

See also: Gabrial Adams, serving life, found dead in prison for mentally ill


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Video: Hear Christopher Lopez's jailers joke and laugh while he slowly dies

Categories: News, Prison Life

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Christopher Lopez during some of his final moments. Warning: The video and photos below may disturb some readers.
Update: Last week, we told you about a lawsuit accusing Colorado Department of Corrections personnel with allowing mentally ill inmate Christopher Lopez to die while they watched; see our previous coverage below.

Now, attorney David Lane has released a 47 minute video that compiles shocking footage from Lopez's final hours. Be warned that some readers may find the images disturbing.

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Photos: Graduation day for students in Colorado's Youthful Offender System

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Photo by Emerald O'Brien
A graduate of the Century High School Class of 2014 after the changing of the tassels on Friday.
Friday's graduation ceremony at Century High School in Pueblo looked like a typical outdoor ceremony, with programs used as fans, students wearing shades, and oldies radio blaring through speakers. But after the ceremony, the thirty graduates didn't get to leave the facility forever. In fact, they didn't even get to leave the campus for the day.

Century High School is a program within Colorado's Youthful Offender System (YOS), a medium security prison housing offenders who committed a violent crime before their 21st birthday.

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Video: Why Donny Andrews is STILL in prison and ex-sheriff Pat Sullivan isn't

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Donny Andrews, near the start of his 81-year sentence.
Two years ago, former Arapahoe County sheriff Pat Sullivan managed to chisel down a pack of squalid allegations involving methamphetamine, trading drugs for sex, exploiting a mentally challenged individual and even a sort-of admission of sex with minors into the world's sweetest plea deal, copping to one felony and one misdemeanor, in exchange for a mere thirty days in jail and probation.

At the time, we noted that a fellow named Donny Andrews had particular reason to be outraged at the break that Sullivan got.

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Thomas Silverstein: Thirty years of solitary not "cruel and unusual," judges insist

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Thomas Silverstein.
After more than thirty years of solitary confinement -- including a quarter-century of good behavior, during which he committed no disciplinary infractions -- convicted killer Thomas Silverstein still poses too great a threat to other inmates, staff or himself to be allowed to circulate in the general prison population, according to a three-judge panel representing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Three decades of isolation, including the past nine years at the federal supermax penitentiary in Florence, have produced only "mild psychiatric symptoms" in Silverstein and don't amount to a violation of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, the panel ruled late last week.

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Solitary confinement: Inside bill to limit isolation of mentally ill prisoners

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Andrew Bardwell
In January, Colorado Department of Corrections chief Rick Raemisch drew headlines when he sent himself to the hole for twenty hours, so he could get some idea of what it's like for prisoners serving time in solitary confinement. Raemisch believes that isolation cells are overused in the state prison system, particularly for mentally ill inmates -- and now a bill making its way through the state legislature aims to fix that.

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Millions served: Pie chart gives fresh look at who's in U.S. jails and prisons

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Reporters generally do a lousy job of analyzing the incarceration rate in the United States -- which, despite recent sentencing reforms, remains the highest in the world, with more citizens per capita behind bars than in Cuba, Rwanda or Russia. That's why a recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative, featuring a nifty pie chart that parses out the distinct systems of confinement in the U.S., is such a welcome tool -- it locks down who's locked up in our jails, prisons, juvenile and immigration detention facilities and more, giving a startling snapshot of Fortress America.

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Gabrial Adams, serving life, found dead in prison for mentally ill

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Gabrial Adams.
Gabrial Adams, a 38-year-old inmate serving life without parole for his role in a headline-grabbing double-murder committed when he was a teenager, was found dead in his cell on March 9. Although autopsy results have not yet been released and the Colorado Department of Corrections is offering little information about the death, Adams -- who had a history of suicide attempts -- reportedly hanged himself in the San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo, which houses many of the prison system's most severely mentally ill inmates.

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Edward Montour gets life, death-penalty foes get a win

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Edward Montour Jr.
After twelve years of trying to put Edward Montour Jr. to death for the murder of a Limon prison guard, it took only a few minutes late yesterday afternoon to sentence him to life without parole, after prosecutors grumblingly agreed to a plea deal that they said would provide only "partial justice" in the convoluted case.

As Michael Roberts reported yesterday, Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler made the offer of life in exchange for a guilty plea hours after opening statements in Montour's long-awaited retrial.

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Edward Montour death-penalty case: DA George Brauchler, defense clash at hearing

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George Brauchler.
Update, 2:40 p.m.: Earlier today, Judge Richard Caschette issued a ruling denying District Attorney George Brauchler's motion to delay the murder trial of Edward Montour Jr. or to bar testimony from eleven defense expert witnesses. That sets the stage for opening statements in the death-penalty case to begin on Tuesday -- and for the defense to make its case that Montour was wrongfully convicted of the crime that put him in prison where, five years later, he fatally attacked Eric Autobee.

Our original report follows below.


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