Why a Prisons Chief Put Himself in Solitary

Rick Raemisch wanted to have the experience
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2014 6:02 PM CDT
Why a Prisons Chief Put Himself in Solitary
This undated photo provided by the Colorado Department of Corrections shows Corrections Department Executive Director Rick Raemisch.   (AP Photo/Colorado Department of Corrections)

Rick Raemisch is no average prisons chief, but these aren't average times for US prisons. Newly appointed as Colorado's chief of corrections, Raemisch put himself in solitary confinement for 20 hours to experience the most controversial form of punishment in prisons today, the New York Times reports. "I thought he was crazy," said the prison warden. "But I also admired him for wanting to have the experience." Raemisch wrote about the scary isolation, fitful sleeping, and blaring noise from other cells in a Times op-ed last month. Now he aims to further reduce the use of solitary confinement in Colorado's 20 state-run prisons.

"Something is inherently wrong" with solitary, said Raemisch. "Everything you know about treating human beings, that’s not the way to do it." Experts have said it amounts to psychological torture, and Raemisch worries about Colorado's habit of releasing solitary prisoners right onto the streets (one of them murdered his predecessor, Tom Clements, before police shot and killed the man). Comfortable in T-shirts and sports jackets, Raemisch is a cautious, soft-spoken former sheriff and self-described "meat and potatoes man" who may be suited to tackling the issue. He has already made enemies ("This guy is jive," said a conservative radio host) but he's also laid out an agenda—which includes banning the use of indefinite placement in solitary. "They should know when they're coming out," he said. Click to see a National Post report on why New York state reduced its use of solitary, or see why 30,000 US prisoners went on a hunger strike. (More solitary confinement stories.)

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