“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


  1. Juan September 23, 2022 at 12:23 am - Reply

    …It is also possible that we have compiled a sufficient amount of empirical data over the last 350+ years in this contry alone to support the conclusion that these forms of punishment have failed to produced the desired results – ever.
    Quite the contrary outcome, every single time.

  2. Deb September 25, 2022 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    The use of solitary confinement just shows how ineffective the whole punishment-based system is. Inmates already have had so much taken away from them, there is little left on the punishment menu except increasing extreme and inhumane conditions.

  3. Cindy September 25, 2022 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Confinement is a displinary easy out for the prison system and the state washes there hands. Then when the prisoner is released from prison they are unhinged and antisocial,they may do well in the beginnig but once a trigger happens that human being goes back to old habits and ends back in the justice system. Total nightmare for everyone involved.there are better ways!

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