I found the Department of Public Safety’s lack of resources to adequately address the mental health needs of prisoners, described in the March 12 Point of View “Two years after death, too-little progress on prison reforms,” appalling.
Even more shocking is the General Assembly’s decision to fund less than half of Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget request to expand mental health services for prisoners. The result? A system that imposes the potentially devastating effects of solitary confinement on the very people who may be most vulnerable to them. The consequences can be tragic for prisoners, as they were for Michael Anthony Kerr.
We expect people in prison to return to productive lives outside the prison walls. What are the consequences for society when someone is denied adequate mental health treatment and instead leaves prison scarred by solitary confinement? We should all be concerned.
The legislature must respond during the short session by funding mental health care in our prisons. And our officials must implement policies to reduce the use of solitary and address its destructive effects.
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As the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections wrote, after spending a day in solitary confinement, “doing anything less would be both counterproductive and inhumane.”