Self-harming behavior gets new approach from Corrections Department

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Settling a lawsuit by a disability-rights group, the state Department of Corrections has agreed take a more therapeutic and less punitive approach to inmates who harm themselves.

The suit by Vermont Protection and Advocacy, filed in September of 2004, alleged that inmates were being punished with everything from pepper spray to being placed in segregation for engaging in self-harming behaviors.

There were an estimated 75 to 100 instances in one 18-month period of inmates harming themselves. Episodes ranged from scratching one’s own arm until it bled to attempted suicide by hanging.

Under a settlement of the federal lawsuit, the department won’t use segregation as a punishment for such behaviors. Instead it will offer mental health services to the inmates involved.

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