Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Jean Casella and Aviva Stahl

Opening the Door

by Jean Casella and Aviva Stahl, Solitary Watch

What will it take to end long-term solitary confinement in America’s prisons? Colorado could be the first to find out.

For 13 of his 22 years in prison, Cero Smith spent 23 hours a day alone in a small concrete cell. Three times a day, a corrections officer would pass his meals through a slot in the solid steel cell door. A CO would also take him to exercise alone for one hour in a small recreation room at the end of the pod. Otherwise, he had no contact with other human beings.

Through a Plexiglass window in a visiting booth at the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) in the fall of 2015, Smith described his time in solitary. A tall African American man with tattoos covering both arms, he wears a serious expression that never cracks, and seems to choose his words carefully.

“People find activities to drown it out,” he says of the loneliness and monotony of solitary confinement. Now 38, Smith was 16 years old when he was sent to adult prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in a gang-related killing. Accused of assaulting a corrections officer, he ...


Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual



Prisoner Education Guide side



Federal Prison Handbook