Alan Prendergast's update on the story of murderer Thomas Silverstein, who's been held in solitary confinement for more than a quarter-century, examines the issue of whether conditions at Colorado's supermax facility are "extreme." A reader with expertise in the field responded with a look at balancing behavior issues with mental-health treatment.
Carl Toersbijns writes:
This is typical response from the judicial systems that create divisions or levels of acceptable treatment versus unacceptable treatment in solitary confinement. It is likely that if this prisoner was mentally ill, he would have been provided the required consideration for his complaint filed but since his placement inside this unit is based on behavioral issues and not mental issues the justice system has defined boundaries that apply and not apply. I think that that is most appropriate given the case that not all solitary confinement placements are unreasonable and inappropriate for validated gang members, terrorists and other disruptive group members.
After all, I worked inside a SMU for many years and can tell you that the assignment is most appropriate for behavioral managment but not for mental health treatment. There should however be criteria to allow steps to a reduced custody level or housing assignment based on the prisoner's ability to adhere to rules and regulations and other incentive based programming. The first and utmost important step is to be free from any gang activity for at least 4 years and pass a polygraph to be eliigble for step down with clear conduct history as well as mental health assessments of their individual personality traits and history. Of course, this is an anecdotal opinion with no facts to prove either right or wrong... in other words, just my opinion.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
For more memorable takes, visit our Comment of the Day archive.