The story of Sam Mandez

Forever changed by solitary confinement

Here is the story that will make you see the cruel reality of solitary confinement, the story of Sam Mandez. This inhuman sentence changes permanently inmates, even after a short time held in segregation. With all the conditions and restrictions, it is not hard to understand how anyone experiencing solitary confinement can develop mental illnesses and traumatisms.

In 1992, an elderly woman was murdered in her home. Sam Mandez, who was only 14 years-old, was suspected for the death of this woman. There was no significant evidence that he was the murderer. However, due to the laws of Colorado at that time, the jury had no choice but to sentence Mandez to death or to life in prison without parole, even though they were not convinced that this teenager was the real criminal. He was 18 when he received his life sentence.

A short time after the beginning of his penalty, he was sent in solitary confinement because of minor and non-violent institutional offenses. For example, he made a three-way phone call and that was forbidden. Mandez spent 16 years of his life in segregation.

In solitary confinement, prisoners spend 22 to 24 hours per day in their cells. They have nothing to do. They are left alone. No visit. No phone call. Most of them cut open their arms, flood their cell, cover their door window, try suicide,… All of these behaviors lead to a longer stay in solitary confinement.

To be put in segregation had the effect to make Mandez mentally ill at a sever degree. His illness made him act out which kept him in solitary confinement much longer… He was trapped in a vicious circle. There was not going out of if horrible situation mostly because the prison did not treat him for his mental health problems. In 2012, Sam Mandez was transferred in a mental institution for sick inmates. However, he still did not received the proper medication.

It may seems like the story of Mandez is exceptional among all others, but, unfortunately, thousands of other inmates are living the same torture. Many prisoner are kept in solitary confinement for years because they are mentally ill, they do not receive medication and the officials consider them dangerous. The ACLU of Colorado created a short film of Mandez’s story to represent how solitary confinement can change a person. To watch this 22 minutes video, you can click on button below:


1) Cohen, Andrew. “Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Inc., 13 November 2013. Web. 28 April 2015.

2) Moffeit, Miles and Kevin Simpson. “Teen crime, adult time.” Denverpost. Denverpost inc., 28 October 2006. Web. 28 April 2015.

3) T. Wallace, Rebecca. “FAQs: Out of sight, Out of Mind.” ACLU. ACLU of Colorado inc., 7 Novermber 2013. Web. 28 April 2015.

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