My Night in Solitary Confinement

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

It’s a typical dreary January winter morning at a Colorado state penitentiary.  Sounds of shackled feet are heard shuffling down a long dark hallway that leads to solitary confinement, also known as Ad Seg. The only background noise is the chilling sound of howling disgruntled inmates. His arms handcuffed and his legs shackled, Rick makes his way to solitary confinement, a place where time stands still and the mentally sane can be driven into the world of insanity.  

A mesh bag filled with toiletries is the only item the correctional officer brings to cell No. 22 where Rick will be confined for the next 20 hours. Toiletries are the only items permitted in the 7 by 13 ft. tiny cell, scantily furnished by a small cot, sink, and toilet all made of cold steel and fastened to the floor.

Rick will have to survive in his cell without any type of entertainment including books, magazines or television. In “Removed From Population” (R.F.P.) inmates are not allowed these items. However, in regular Ad. Seg. inmates can pass the time watching T.V. and reading books.

After a lingering stroll to the cell where Rick will spend time in solitary confinement, correctional officers remove his shackles and slam the heavy steel door behind him. Rick experiences one moment of silence before his feed tray door is banged open and he is ordered to place his hands through the narrow opening and his handcuffs are abruptly removed. The reality of being in solitary confinement settles into Rick’s mind.

Rick hasn’t even been charged with a crime. But, he will only spend 20 hours locked in the dismal cell located on the second floor and he requested his extended visit at the Colorado penitentiary.

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A Different Kind of Justice

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Following the aftermath of the third media worthy shooting in Colorado, the time has arrived for shedding light onto positive news in Colorado.

According to the news media, the federal government is taking a more serious look at how mental illness is connected to violent crimes. Gun control news has accelerated. However, it is evident that stricter gun control laws are not the only answer to this festering problem.  

Colorado recently added their eighth mental illness pilot project to their judicial system. Currently, there are approximately 300 similar projects across the nation.

Leave it to Aspen, Colorado, the innovative ski resort town burrowed in the Rocky Mountains to launch a program designed for mentally ill offenders.

It is no surprise the glitzy town of Aspen would offer such a lavish solution to a problem narrowly addressed within the criminal justice system. Aspen locals have historically nick named the Aspen jail the “Club Med” of the correctional system.

The Wellness Program, generated earlier this year has evolved over the past several months.

The motive of the program is to provide appropriate sentencing alternatives for mentally ill offenders, sentencing alternatives which reduce recidivism rates.  

For people with mental illness, jail rarely is the proper place to get needed treatment, but that is often exactly the place where they repeatedly end up.

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Colorado Restorative Justice

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Dianne Frazee-Walker is the founder of Full Circle Restorative Justice (FCRJ) for the 11th Judicial District of Colorado, Chaffee County. (FCRJ) was formed in 2006 as a non-profit 501(c) 3 entity whose purpose was to provide an alternative route for young adult and juvenile first-time offenders entering the revolving court system.

The mission of (FCRJ) is “To enhance the safety of our community by addressing offender accountability and to empower victims through a supportive conflict resolution process.”  

For the full story of (FCRJ)

There are many advantages to using restorative justice as a form of mediation to resolve crime-related conflict. 

Offenders have an opportunity to face their victims and participate in creating a contract for repairing the harm. Victims, who are willing to participate in the process, are empowered by having a voice about how they were affected by the crime and what can be done to restore the damage.

The dialogue that takes place in a restorative circle has the potential of healing both parties. Offenders who participate in the restorative conversation are less likely to reoffend because hearing how their behavior impacted their victims and giving identity to their victims provides offenders with a sense of empathy, accountability, and responsibility that they do not have access to when there is no contact with their victims.

When restorative justice is used to rehabilitate offenders the recidivism rate is less than 10%.

Pete Lee, Colorado State Representative was reelected to represent House District 18 in 2010. Soon after being reelected, Mr. Lee drafted HB-11-1032, which gives victims of some crimes the right to meet face-to-face with the offender under highly-regulated circumstances, and allows for sentences that focus on compensating and repairing harm to victims. The bill passed unanimously.

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