A North Carolina prison is being accused of breaking its own policies after holding an inmate with mental illness in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Among other things, experts say the practice can intensify mental health problems.

In 2016, the state Department of Public Safety created a new suicide prevention program aimed at keeping inmates with mental illnesses out of solitary confinement.  

But according to North Carolina Health News reporter Taylor Knopf, the department has been breaking that very policy. She's written for several years about the case of Devon Davis, a man with a number of mental health issues who spent 154 days in solitary on a return trip to prison.

Knopf says inmates like Davis can be hurt forever by such practices.

“That does irreversible damage to the brain that some psychiatrists say they can't…they're not sure they can successfully help someone like that return to any sort of normal mental health status,” Knopf says.

According to DPS, there's been a 65 percent increase in the number of inmates diagnosed with mental illness over the past decade.

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