Supermax opening in Colorado: Is lawsuit-filing Troy Anderson on "the list" to move there?

This week, without much fanfare and after months of budget-related delays, state officials opened one wing of Colorado's second supermax prison, designed to hold "the most disruptive offenders" who have "demonstrated the inability to function at a less secure facility."

The move set off waves of speculation among the solitary residents of the Colorado State Penitentiary over who's headed to the new hoosegow. Troy Anderson, who's been at CSP for a decade, suspects he's on the list.

The new supermax, formerly known as CSP II but now blandly rechristened the Centennial Correctional Facility, was built to house 948 hard cases. But the state budget crunch has forced the Department of Corrections to open only one tower containing 316 cells.

Anderson, the subject of my 2006 feature "Head Games," is serving a 75-year sentence on multiple counts stemming from two shootouts with police in the 1990s. He has a long history of mental illness and is currently involved in a lawsuit challenging the DOC's mental health treatment policies; although the state has a prison specifically designed for the mentally ill, it's overloaded. Almost 40 percent of the prisoners at CSP have been diagnosed with some form of chronic mental illness, yet their access to treatment is severely limited.

Since his lawsuit was filed last spring, Anderson claims to have been targeted for retaliation at CSP, leading him to believe he might be slated for the new supermax. In a recent letter to Westword, he writes:

"They've canceled all visits throughout the whole system for 'operational' purposes. And now today we were told we'll be on modified lockdown indefinitely. So we'll get showers every couple days. It's got to be so they can begin moving dudes over there.

"They've been saying they are opening some sort of mental health thing here at CSP. And that all people rated P-3 [diagnosed with a significant degree of mental illness] will stay here. I am a P-3. But I suspect I will move over there.

"Did I tell you how DOC has responded to the lawsuit? On 4-20-10 they pulled me from a legal visit and told me I was now on the 'Heightened Threat' list because of a 'perceived threat on staff.'

"Now everywhere I go I am on a dog leash and three cops always escort me. They cuff me behind the back and attach the dog leash to the cuffs. It's really stupid.

"We've also been informed that since since they provide TVs in the cells [at Centennial] they'll be wanting us to send all our own personal TVs home... That's gonna cause problems, cause we buy them at their insane prices, from their canteen. And now we'll have to send them home?

"Mental health hadn't seen me for five months until two weeks ago -- and that was only for some 6-month review... Kinda crazy because they're supposed to open up the mental health program here. But we'll see. Maybe I am getting worked up over nothing. I've had 3 cops tell me that all people on the 'heightened threat' list are going.

"I just want to draw attention to the conditions, which will be even worse than here."

A check with DOC confirms that Anderson is, as of this morning, still at CSP. But stay tuned.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast