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Oregon Prison Tackles Solitary Confinement with Blue Room Experiment

Your agency might consider this amazingly innovative strategy or a similar one for addressing mental health in your supermax or administrative segregation units. "Prison officials across the United States have spent the last few years debating how to help tens of thousands of prisoners cope in solitary confinement, the housing of last resort for violent, combative, or escape-prone inmates. Many human rights groups condemn the highly restrictive cells as an incubator for mental illness. About 19 months ago, Snake River officials turned for help from an offbeat source, a globetrotting forest ecologist more familiar with the canopies of Costa Rica's rainforests than the internal struggles of prisoners kept month after month in isolated quarters. What emerged was a one-of-a-kind sanctuary known as the Blue Room. Inside a converted recreation room, prisoners deprived of wind and sunsets and trees can reconnect with sights and sounds of the natural world. A video projector casts images against a wall: Big Sur, a brook in a dark forest, a tropical beach and 30 other nature videos. The plan to calm prisoners and make them less violent shows promise." This article explains how a 5-minute TED (Technology, Education, Design) talk by Nalini Nadkarni resulted in the development and implementation of the Blue Room which is located in the IMU (Intensive Management Unit) - a 20 tier contained section of the Snake River Correctional Institution. The costs for this program run about $1,500. While the data is preliminary, the rate of disciplinary infractions is higher for those inmates who did not use the Blue Room compared to the rate for those inmates who did.

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