Gov. Hickenlooper signs law limiting solitary confinement for mentally ill patients

DENVER - Inmates with serious mental illnesses won't be placed in solitary confinement in Colorado under a new law.

The bill Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Friday prohibits the state Department of Corrections from putting mentally ill inmates in long-term solitary confinement, unless there are exigent circumstances.

The legislation aligns with what the agency already was working on. In late April, only one mentally ill inmate was in solitary confinement.

The mental health impacts of the punishment received more attention in Colorado after last year's slaying of former state corrections Director Tom Clements. The suspect spent much of his eight years in prison in solitary confinement before being released.

A growing number of states recently have re-examined solitary confinement's effectiveness. Nevada and Texas last year passed bills to study the issue, and Maine and New Mexico have been working to reduce their use of the punishment.

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