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October 19, 2013 at 9:18 PM

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New treatment for mentally ill in solitary confinement at Monroe prison


With additional caption information from editorial writer Jonathan Martin. Read his editorial.

The Intensive Management Unit, or IMU, at Monroe Correctional Complex, is where the most high-risk and violent offenders are kept locked away. For 23 hours a day, they have no contact with other humans, save the occasional guard or the shouts of the inmates in neighboring cells. The new Reintegration and Progression Program at Monroe's IMU uses group behavioral modification classes to transition offenders out of solitary confinement and back into general population. One study found about 45 percent of offenders in Washington's IMU have serious mental illness or traumatic brain injuries.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Inmates in the Reintegration and Progression Program in the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) of Monroe Correctional Complex sit in a class chained to their desks, but not alone. Solitary confinement can exacerbate mental illness and has been shown to double the chances of recidivism for released inmates. The prison is trying a new "pro-social" approach to ease the transition of their highest-level offenders with cognitive behavior therapy in group class settings. Offenders in this class, clockwise from left, are Daniel Perez, Derek Correa, Joshua Burgoyne, and Jeffrey Newman, front.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Offender Joshua Burgoyne, 31, sits chained to his desk in a Reintegration and Progression Program class with a paper illustrating different feelings. The behavioral therapy class of the day focused on controlling emotions in different situations. Burgoyne, a self-described gang member, said he's never lasted in general population longer than 7 months, and has cumulatively spent at least five years in solitary confinement. He was most recently sent to the IMU for smoking marijuana in the prison, but hopes the group lessons will help him stay out of trouble. "You go into prison with a an associate's degree in crime and come out with a Ph.D."

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"I know I need to make a change," said Derek Correa, 46, serving a life sentence for a 1996 murder conviction. Correa cites a "longterm behavior problem," for the reason he estimates that he's cumulatively spent 12 years in solitary confinement of the 25 he's been in prison.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Inmates in the Reintegration and Progression Program of the Intensive Management Unit at Monroe Correctional Complex brainstorm on a smart board how they react to situations with thoughts and feelings during a behavioral therapy class.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Over in the Minimum Security Unit, offenders in the Crossroads program talk during a governing meeting. The Crossroads program is a minimum-custody program intended for offenders with psychiatric problems, many of whom are to be released soon. Relying on the "therapeutic community" model, it is rigidly structured and requires offenders to largely self-govern, and self-police each other.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Left image: Zane Locke is part of the Expedite crew in the Crossroads program at the Minimum Security Unit of Monroe Correctional Complex. "I needed this place," he said about the program. A fellow inmate said that Locke was withdrawn and depressed when he came into it, and saw him transition to be friendly; joking and laughing along. The program is designed to give inmates the authority and autonomy to make decisions and changes to their living areas and prepare them for transition to work release.
Right image: Marcus McMahon, 51, is the "Big Dog" senior coordinator of the Crossroads program at the Minimum Security Unit of Monroe Correctional Complex. McMahon said that he was "a wreck" when he arrived in prison for a 2010 burglary conviction. "I'm a guy, I don't have problems. That's the way I thought." He's since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "I was dead set against (taking) meds" for psychiatric symptoms. "But properly prescribed, in time, it can help you regain your sanity."

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Inmates use the yard for physical activities in the Minimum Security Unit at Monroe Correctional Complex on October 9, 2013. The goal of the new Reintegration and Progression Program in the Intensive Management Unit is to rehabilitate the worst-behaving offenders so that they can move into lower levels of custody and possibly prepare for release.

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