“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,”
— Juan E. Méndez , UN Special Rapporteur on torture, 2011
The United Nations considers solitary confinement, particularly anything beyond 15 days, as torture, and should be banned as a punishment technique. It is defined as “confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.” If so, then surely it is not used in any correctional facility in Vermont, right?
Vermont has several housing categories that are a form of solitary confinement. Disciplinary segregation (“the hole”) is used as a punishment. In disciplinary seg, one is not allowed personal property, commissary, books, television, or outdoor recreation. People are not meant to remain in this type of segregation for more than 30 days, at which time they must have a hearing. They are then moved to administrative segregation (ad seg), close custody, or to the general population. Ad seg and close custody may, or may not, include more access to property, books, or television. Outdoor recreation, if it is provided, is in the “bullpen”, the size of half a basketball court or smaller. At some Vermont facilities, the bullpen is mostly covered, preventing access to sunlight. There is no limit to the length of time a person may be held in this type of housing. It is possible that the individual might remain segregated for their entire prison sentence.
The purpose of all of these types of segregation is punishment and control. Rehabilitation or socialization is not part of the equation. Needless to say, the majority of people in any of these types of housing are like to be those with mental health challenges and addiction issues. This treatment will exacerbate these problems. Are people who are submitted to this treatment emerging from their incarceration and rejoining our communities, as most of them will, healthy and prepared to be good citizens?
Read more on the United Nations statements on solitary confinement in United States prisons
UN: Prolonged Solitary Confinement Amounts to Psychological Torture
Solitary Confinement Should Be Banned in Most Cases, UN Export Says