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

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

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

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

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

george brauchler 205x205.jpg
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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Rick Raemisch, prison chief, goes to solitary -- for twenty hours

Rick Raemisch.
Last month, Rick Raemisch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, decided to get a taste of his own medicine. He cuffed up and shuffled in leg shackles to an administrative segregation cell, bereft of TV or books. Sitting in solitary, listening to the noise from other cells, soon got him feeling "twitchy and paranoid." Within a few hours he'd lost track of time and was wondering how long it would take until he lost his marbles. "I don't know, but I'm confident that it would be a battle I would lose," he wrote in an op-ed piece in Friday's New York Times.

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Michaelee Owen lawsuit prompts big changes in Pueblo's treatment of deaf prisoners

Photos and more below.
During the seven months Michaelee Owen (seen here) spent in Pueblo County Jail back in 2012, he was never provided with either a sign-language interpreter or a device that would have allowed him to communicate with anyone -- even his own mother. That won't be the case for future inmates, though. A settlement in a lawsuit filed by Owen calls for Pueblo authorities to change the way deaf prisoners are treated. And it's not the first time Owen has been part of a suit defending the rights of deaf individuals who run afoul of the law.

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Colorado prisoners deserve more than sixty cents a day, inmate says

Reggie Keyes.
Under the newly re-gilted Capitol dome, lawmakers are debating budget cuts and trying to wrestle pork into and out of familiar barrels. It's unlikely, though, that any of them are losing sleep over one burning issue that's been a source of constant grumbling in places like Ordway, Sterling, and Buena Vista: the shockingly low, low pay rate for state prisoners. Over the past decade, despite inflation, boosts in the minimum wage, and even some progress in the general state of sweatshops, Colorado's fixed rate for most inmate jobs has remained the same: sixty cents a day.

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Defense: Edward Montour wrongly convicted of killing baby before prison murder, execution bid

Edward Montour Jr.
The long, troubled effort to execute Edward Montour Jr. for the 2002 murder of Limon prison guard Eric Autobee, a prosecution already under fire from Autobee's parents, who oppose the death penalty for their son's killer, just got more complicated. A defense motion filed Monday morning contends that Montour was wrongly convicted of beating his infant daughter to death, the crime that put him in prison in the first place and got him labeled as a "baby killer" among other inmates before his fatal attack on Autobee.

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The ugly truth about prisoner lawsuits

Like Bronco hype and stories about Bieber Behaving Badly, you can count on a regular supply of reports in the press dealing with how criminals continue to scam the system even while behind bars. The latest installment appeared over the weekend in the Denver Post, a tut-tutter lamenting that inmate lawsuits account for nearly a fifth of the civil actions filed in Colorado's federal district court last year. That's a troubling figure, no question about it, but not for the reason the article suggests but fails to prove -- that the vast majority of those claims must be frivolous.

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