[Ppnews] Troy Anderson lawsuit: Supermax conditions draw criticism from judge

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 8 10:41:33 EDT 2012

Troy Anderson lawsuit: Supermax conditions draw criticism from judge

By <http://blogs.westword.com/author.php?author_id=936>Alan 
Prendergast Mon., May 7 2012 at 8:30 AM

After nearly five days of testimony in a lawsuit brought by Troy 
Anderson, a prisoner who's been in solitary confinement for twelve 
years, a Denver federal judge was strongly urging Colorado Department 
of Corrections officials to fix the harshest conditions at the 
state's supermax prison -- before he has to do it for them. "It 
shouldn't take a federal judge to write an opinion and embarrass the 
department in the public eye to get this accomplished," U.S. District 
Brooke Jackson said.

Jackson's remarks, suggesting that there might have to be some 
drastic changes in the way the Colorado State Penitentiary operates, 
came midway through testimony in the case brought by Anderson, a 
state inmate serving what amounts to a life sentence for charges from 
two shootouts with police in the late 1990s. Anderson, who's been 
diagnosed with mental illnesses ranging from ADHD to "intermittent 
explosive disorder," has been confined at CSP since 2000 -- deprived 
of direct sunlight or outdoor recreation, books (he's allowed two a 
year), and, he claims, the medications that might actually help him 
control his behavior, reduce his sentence and get him placed back int 
the general prison population.

filed with the aid of student lawyers from the University of Denver's 
Sturm College of Law, contends that the state prison policies that 
keep him locked down 23 hours a day and and denied mental health 
treatment are unconstitutional.

Nicknamed "Evil," Anderson has a long history of erratic behavior, 
suicide attempts and violence going back to an early age, a 
voluminous psychiatric record explored in my 2006 feature 
"<http://www.westword.com/2006-09-21/news/head-games/>Head Games." 
He's one of ten state inmates who have been kept at the supermax for 
more than a decade. Prison officials maintain that's because he poses 
a threat to himself and other inmates as well as staff.

On Friday, former CSP warden Susan Jones, who reviewed Anderson's 
placement last year, testified that "he told me he can't control his 
anger. He was real clear that he had a lawsuit filed and that unless 
he was properly medicated, he shouldn't be moved.... I was really 
concerned about his ability to go out of CSP and hurt somebody."

But Anderson's attorneys contend that the supermax fails to provide 
adequate treatment for mentally ill inmates -- who, deprived of 
medication, exercise and socialization, deteriorate in solitary 
confinement. Inmates can also receive negative write-ups, or 
"chrons," from guards that help keep them in segregation, even though 
they have no opportunity to contest the information. Under direct 
questioning from Jackson, Jones conceded that the situation needed 
some "fixing."

Jackson also heard testimony, delivered remotely by video, from other 
supermax prisoners. David Bueno complained of unhealthy conditions in 
the closet-like exercise room, equipped with a pull-up bar, that 
substitutes for outdoor recreation; he described the effort of 
turning his body around, trying to get "fresh air" from a grate that 
allows air from outside the prison to enter the exercise room, as 
similar to that of a chicken turning on a spit.

Inmate Carlos Mondragon said the last time he'd breathed real fresh 
air was in 2004, when a transport team briefly let him enjoy the snow 
outside CSP. "It felt real good [to play in the snow]," Mondragon 
testified, "even though I was all chained up and the escort officers 
were laughing at me." He's since had frequent suicidal thoughts, he 
added: "I go to bed crying sometimes because I feel I have no hope of 
being outside of that cell any more."

Former CSP warden Jones disputed Bueno's claims about "filthy" floors 
at CSP. Jackson lamented that he couldn't conduct a surprise 
inspection of the prison himself.

Breaking into an unusual colloquy with Jones when she was on the 
stand, Jackson said he was troubled by the lack of meaningful 
administrative review and the absence of due process in the use of 
negative "chrons" to keep inmates in solitary for years. "It doesn't 
seem fair to me," he declared. And some of the other conditions 
described by inmates, if true, were clearly "inhumane" in his view.

"I understand the difficulties of running a prison," the judge said. 
"Some of your customers at CSP, I put them there. How do we get this fixed?"

The trial is expected to conclude early next week. Jackson's ruling 
on the constitutional issues raised by Anderson isn't anticipated for 
several weeks.

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