By John IngoldThe Denver
Posted: 09/04/2012 12:01:00 AM MDT
For 12 years, virtually the only exposure Troy Anderson has had to the
outdoors has come in a 90-square-foot room.
At one end of the room are two slits in the wall that are 6-inches wide and
5-feet tall. The slits are covered with metal grates. On one wall of the room is
a chin-up bar.
This, Colorado Department of Corrections officials argued in a lawsuit Anderson filed, satisfied the constitutional requirement that Anderson, a prisoner at the Colorado State Penitentiary, be
given outdoor exercise opportunities.
In a ruling issued last week, a federal judge in Denver disagreed and ordered
prison officials to allow Anderson to exercise in a place with no roof where the
rain can fall on him and the wind can blow at him.
“The Eighth Amendment does not mandate comfortable prisons,” U.S. District
Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in his ruling, “but it does forbid inhumane
Anderson’s treatment, Jackson wrote, was “a paradigm of inhumane
The ruling could have widespread impact.
The Colorado State Penitentiary, or CSP for short, is the most
restrictive prison in the state system and is used to house the state’s most
dangerous inmates. Prisoners are kept in their cells for at least 23 hours a
day. Meals come through a slot in the cell door. The only window in the cell is
difficult to look through.
There are 756 inmates at the prison, according to the Department of
Corrections. Anderson, who has spent most of his adult life in prison for crimes
that include a shootout with police, is one of nine inmates who have been housed
in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, according to Jackson’s
Anderson’s attorneys — law students from the University of Denver and their
faculty advisors — say the ruling could mean that all inmates at CSP must be
given genuine outdoor exercise time.
“We’re hopeful the ruling will be the catalyst … to change that inhumane
practice,” DU law professor Brittany Glidden, one of the faculty advisers,
But, in an e-mail, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the
department sees the ruling as applying only to Anderson. Jackson gave the
department 60 days to come up with a plan for giving Anderson outdoor exercise
for one hour at a time, three days a week.
One of the options, Glidden said, is that the department might just move him
into a less-resrtictive prison.
“We just received the ruling and are now analyzing how we are going to
implement the judge’s orders,” DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti wrote in an
Jackson noted in his ruling that one prison expert who testified at trial in
the case said CSP is the only prison in the nation that does not provide true
outdoor exercise for inmates. Instead, across the country, prisons are rethinking the use of prolonged solitary confinement.
“CDOC officials,” Jackson wrote, “know that CSP is out of step with the rest
of the nation.”
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, firstname.lastname@example.org or