Report: Conditions Inhuman at 'Alcatraz of Rockies'

Amnesty International: solitary confinement must be rolled back at ADX

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2014 8:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – At the nation's most restrictive prison, most inmates are allowed nearly zero social interaction—in one extreme case, a prisoner who killed a fellow inmate at another prison gets just one minute per day of contact with other people. In a report out today, Amnesty International says the Administrative Maximum facility at Florence, Colo., is violating international law with such practices. Also known as ADX or Alcatraz of the Rockies, America's only federal Supermax prison houses prisoners including the Unabomber, the Atlanta Olympics bomber, and one of the terrorists convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Amnesty says its solitary confinement practices are cruel and "inhuman," NBC News reports.

  • Most inmates are kept isolated for 22 to 24 hours per day—for years. In fact, prisoners must spend 12 months in solitary before a reduction in their restrictions will even be considered.
  • According to the report, most are kept in small cells with almost no view of the outside other than a small slit window (which, in some cases, only offers a view of a brick wall), and even exercise sometimes takes place in cages "with no view of the natural world."
  • The report includes accounts of inmates who have been driven to depression, paranoia, and psychosis, though they had no previous history of mental illness. One ADX prisoner bit off his own finger and cut off his earlobes; another hanged himself in his cell.
Amnesty International wants federal and state governments to be more transparent about their use of solitary confinement—and to only use the punishment as a last resort. The group notes it last visited ADX in 2001, with requests to do so since then having been turned down; the report was sourced in part using court documents.

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