Last year a man recently released from prison went to the home of Colorado corrections chief Tom Clements and shot him to death. The prisoner, Evan Ebel, had served five and a half years of his six-year sentence in solitary confinement. Ironically, Clements had been an advocate for prison reform and especially for reducing the use of solitary confinement.
Though one might imagine that Ebel’s action would have terrified citizens and prompted calls for longer prison sentences and tougher probation laws, Clements’s reform work received greater attention. In April, the Colorado legislature passed a law that prohibit prisons from placing prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary confinement and stops prisons from releasing inmates directly from solitary confinement to the outside world. Other states have passed or are considering similar legislation.
The use of solitary confinement—or “administrative segregation”—has been on the rise for several decades, as has the prison population. Under such measures, prisoners are typically held in single cells, without human contact, for 22 to 23 hours a day.