Solitary confinement changing in Vermont prisons

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont's jails are changing their policies regarding solitary confinement.

The Department of Corrections says in the last three to four decades, segregating problem prisoners was the default. Inmates would be put in seclusion regularly for behavioral issues, safety concerns and self-harming tendencies.

Recently, much of the country has shied away from that practice, though, because research shows seclusion can cause more harm than good.

Officials at Vermont's Department of Corrections say over the last year or so, they've only been using solitary confinement as a last resort.

"Our focus is to keep people in the most integrated and least-restrictive setting possible, but commensurate with the safety needs. So, it's an individual, case-by-case basis and what we're able to achieve with that individual, and quite frankly, are they willing to be good partners with us and engage in conversations and therapy," said Mike Touchette, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections.

Touchette says the goal is to rehabilitate prisoners rather than punish them but safety still has to be a priority.