Vermont Prisons Used Lockdowns To Slow Coronavirus, But Prisoners’ Mental Health Suffered

Northern State Correctional Facility, in Newport, was a on lockdown for about a month and a half due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The Department of Corrections says it was the longest pandemic-related lockdown. (Lydia Brown/VPR)

None of the 1,200 or so people held by the Vermont Department of Corrections died from COVID-19, making it the only state in the country with no coronavirus fatalities among its incarcerated population. But while protocols like regular testing and lockdowns might have helped Vermont prisons avoid the worst of the pandemic, the strict lockdown measures took a toll.

Throughout the pandemic, some of Vermont’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks occurred in prisons. More than a third of the state’s incarcerated people caught the disease.

On Feb. 25, the Department of Corrections received COVID-19 test results from Northern State Correctional Facility: One staff member and 21 incarcerated individuals were positive. Officials swiftly placed the Newport facility on full lockdown to try to slow the spread of virus.

That meant 52-year-old Todd Gorton and his bunkmate were almost totally confined to a 8-foot by 12-foot cell. They got out for only 15 minutes a day to shower.

Read the rest of the story at VPR’s website.