Colorado prison chief Rick Raemisch spends a day in solitary confinement

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado's new Corrections Department director is promising to reform solitary confinement policies after spending the night in an isolated cell.

Rick Raemisch says he suffered mental anguish after spending only 20 hours in solitary confinement. The average in Colorado is 23 months.

"Twenty hours is nothing," he said during an interview with 7NEWS' Tyler Lopez. "But to me, I was ready to leave and felt that I wasn't ready to ever go back and do that again."

Raemisch said that while inmates in Ad Seg have committed serious crimes, he doesn't believe that justifies the use of solitary confinement.

"We've come to the realization you just can't treat people like that," he said during an interview with 7NEWS' Tyler Lopez. "This is a national issue, not just a Colorado issue."

A parolee suspected of murdering Raemisch's predecessor, Tom Clements, was released onto parole directly from solitary confinement in March, which Raemisch says is unacceptable.

The killer, Evan Ebel, served eight years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. Ebel was later killed in a shootout with Texas authorities in 2013.

"My arms were handcuffed behind my back, my legs were shackled and I was deposited in Administrative Segregation — solitary confinement," Executive Director Rick Raemisch said. "I hadn’t committed a crime. Instead, as the new head of the state’s corrections department, I wanted to learn more about what we call Ad Seg."

Raemisch wrote about the experience in a letter sent to the New York Times and published Thursday.

"The room is about 7 by 13 feet. What little there is inside — bed, toilet, sink — is steel and screwed to the floor," Raemisch wrote. "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. I kept waiting for the lights to turn off, to signal the end of the day. But the lights did not shut off."

Read Raemisch's letter here. Hear him talk about his experience in the video above.

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