Multi-year documentary highlights Maine State Prison solitary unit

(NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's Department of Corrections has drawn attention nationwide as their sole maximum-security prison has heavily scaled back the use of 'solitary confinement.'
 
On Tuesday night, a two-hour documentary, The Last Days of Solitary, which was produced by PBS affiliate WGBH/FRONTLINE, aired nationwide. The project was co-produced by Daniel Edge and Lauren Micciolo.
 

Starting back in 2013, as part of another FRONTLINE special, Solitary Nation, producer Daniel Edge began filming in the Maine State Prison in Warren. 

Under supervision from then Warden Rodney Bouffard, the prison was in the midst of creating a progressive approach to 'high-risk management,' otherwise known as solitary confinement.
 
Even after the departure of Bouffard in 2015, the same approach has guided the department's decision to divert from keeping inmates in solitary confinement as the primary option, for both protecting corrections staff, and the general jail population, from the state's most dangerous prisoners.
 
Although incidences of assaults and sexual abuse between prisoners are reduced during stints in solitary, prison officials were seeing a spike in anti-social behavior, self-mutilation, and psychosis.
 
Another disadvantage of never ending 'lock up' is that those who have been incarcerated without stimuli often can't cope amongst other internees or relate to the public at-large after being released.
 
According to watchdog organizations like Solitary Watch, there are about 81,000 inmates being housed in some variety of on-going solitary confinement, out of a total holding population of at least two million. Precise statistics on solitary practices are always a little speculative because states are in no way required to disclose who they place in solitary, or for how long.
 
Key MSP organizational improvements showcased in this year's Last Days of Solitary for the 'high-risk' pool of prisoners is the development of a 'structured living unit.'  Those in the structured program now have an in-between step that can help them transition from almost complete confinement to living around some other inmates but not with the total free range that can make some inmates become paranoid or choose to further detach from 'gen pop' after their treatment plan has been deescalated.
 
According to the closing credits, the high-risk solitary population had been reduced to 8 people, down from over 100 in 2011. 
 

If similar math was applied nationwide, and every prison warden followed similar programs, that could equate to a solitary reduction from 81,000, closer to... 10,600.

 
 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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