Rick Raemisch, Colorado’s new corrections director, wanted to better understand the experience of solitary confinement – so he spent a night in segregation at a state prison.
Raemisch had been on the job for seven months when he decided to stay overnight in an ad seg cell at the Colorado State Penitentiary. “I thought he was crazy,” said Warden Travis Trani, who added, “I also admired him for wanting to have the experience.” Trani received only nine hours notice that his boss was arriving for an extended visit.
On January 23, 2014, just after 7:00 p.m., Raemisch, handcuffed and shackled and wearing a prison uniform, entered cell 22. He was classified as “RFP,” or “Removed From Population.” After being uncuffed through the food slot he was left alone in the 7-by-13-foot cell.
In an editorial published in The New York Times on February 20, Raemisch said the experience was challenging.
“First thing you notice is that it’s anything but quiet. You’re immersed in a drone of garbled noise: other inmates, blaring TVs, distant conversations, shouted arguments. I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and was left feeling twitchy and paranoid,” he wrote. “I kept waiting for the lights to turn off, to signal the end of the day. But the lights did not shut off. I began to count the small holes carved in the walls. Tiny grooves made by inmates who’d chipped away at the cell as the cell chipped away at them. For a sound mind, those are daunting circumstances. But every prison in America has become a dumping ground for the mentally ill, and often the ‘worst of the worst,’ some of society’s most unsound minds, are dumped in Ad Seg.”