Dec 18, 2013 6:55 PM by Joanna Wise

Colorado inmates in high-security prison suing for outdoor exercise

For one hour a day, prisoners in solitary confinement at the Colorado State Penitentiary get to leave their 80 sq. ft. cells.

They either hit the showers or exercise in another cell that is 90 sq. ft.

But some inmates say they should be allowed to exercise outside. 

Ryan Decoteau, Anthony Gomez and Dominic Duran are suing the the state Department of Corrections, according to a complaint filed yesterday on behalf of the three inmates by student lawyers at the University of Denver.

According to the Class Action Complaint, the inmates are being denied their Eighth Amendment rights- the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

DOC spokesman Roger Hudson says he has not seen or received the lawsuit yet, and cannot comment until the papers are served.

Amy Robertson, the executive director for education at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center in Denver, serves as one of the attorneys representing the inmates.

"Think about how stir crazy you can go living in Colorado during a snow storm- being indoors for 24 to 48 hours - that's these [inmates] lives for years at a time," said Robertson.

Robertson says the inmates are allowed to exercise in the recreation room for a maximum of 5 hours a week. But that's not always guarenteed. She says the time alloted for access to the recreation room is frequently cancelled due to prison lockdowns, staff shortages, and other administrative issues.

According to the complaint, the recreation room has two narrow windows, and "in order to feel a breeze, the snow, or the rain, an inmate  must press his face up to the metal grates and hope that the wind is in his favor."

Robertson says that is cruel and unusual punishment, and the inmates are suffering mentally and physically.

Robertson says Anderson v. Colorado, a prior lawsuit that is still on-going, supports their claim. In 2012, Troy Anderson, also represented by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, brought forth a complaint, saying his Eighth Amendment rights were being violated. Judge R. Brooke Jackson agreed. 

"It's well known that regular outdoor exercise makes people better adjusted. It's not just good for them, but good for the people around them," said Robertson. "I don't necessarily think this is very wise prison management but our lawsuit is about the Consitutution, it's not about managing the prison."










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