Outreach efforts: We are in contact with many organizations and individuals. Among them are: NASW, CSWE, the Social Work Action Alliance (SWAA), the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA), the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Solitary Watch, the Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR), the NYC’s Urban Justice Center, and the Vera Institute of Justice. We will continue to:
- Advocate within the U.S. and internationally.
- Raise public awareness within and beyond the social work community.
- Organize and present workshops and other educational programs.
- Provide up-to-date information on solitary confinement as it pertains to social work.
- Organize petitions.
- Testify before federal and state legislatures and local governments.
- Urge policymakers to ensure accountability for use of torture, and degrading, cruel, inhumane and torturous treatment.
- Promote legislation for professional accountability within the correctional system.
- Write articles, letters to the editor and on social media.
- Participate in coalitions with other human and civil rights organizations.
Terry Kupers new book “SOLITARY The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It”
“A scathing report on the harsh culture of punishment in American prisons that finds expression most keenly in solitary confinement.With 40 years of experience as a forensic psychiatrist, including serving as an expert witness in several large class-action suits concerning jail and prison conditions, Kupers (Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It, 1999) makes his position crystal clear: we must replace the culture of punishment with one of rehabilitation. He asserts that the estimated figure of 100,000 inmates in solitary is a gross underestimation, that solitary confinement facilities, or Supermax facilities, were overbuilt in the 1990s, and that their use is both counterrehabilitative and countertherapeutic.” “Kupers charges that our prisons are creating monsters, and after vividly demonstrating just how, he deftly outlines how to correct this situation. A must-read for those running our prisons and for policymakers in a position to reform them.”
Prison Treatment Staff in Maryland Added to 20 Year Retirement System
In the Maryland state prison system correctional officers have had 20 year retirement for for many years due to the stresses of the job while all other prison employees had the same 30 year retirement as all other state employess. About 6 years ago, dietary, maintenence and supply staff were added to the 20 year system because they work so closely with inmates. Then last year, correctional administrators and case managers were added. This meant that the only staff in the prisons who worked directly with inmates who did not have 20 year retirement was treatment staff. I asked my local legislators to submit bills to add correctional social workers, psychology staff, and addictions counselors to the 20 year retirement system. Amazingly enough we were successful in getting these bills passed the first year and the state is now working to switch us over to the 20 year retirement system. This will be a great help to us in recruitment and retention of quality treatment staff.
Find out more about your local area
Check your local area for a Taskforce Member contact to find out about local issues and actions or to get involved.
Ethics and Dual Loyalty Issues/Actions
Torture: Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of war with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. http;//www.ohchr.org/en/ProfessionalInterest/pages/cat.aspx
Dual Loyalty Conflicts: Dual loyalty may be defined as clinical role conflicts between professional duties to a patient and obligations, expressed or implied, real or perceived, to the interests of a third party such as an employer, an insurer or the state. It poses particular challenges for health professionals when the subordination of the patient’s interests to state or other purpose risk violating the patient’s
human rights. http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/reports/dual-loyalty-and-human-rights-2003.html
“In recent years, prison officials have increasingly turned to solitary confinement as a way to manage difficult or dangerous prisoners. Many of the prisoners subjected to isolation, which can extend for years, have serious mental illness, and the conditions of solitary confinement can exacerbate their symptoms or provoke recurrence. Prison rules for isolated prisoners, however, greatly restrict the nature and quantity of mental health services that they can receive. In this article, we describe the use of isolation (called segregation by prison officials) to confine prisoners with serious mental illness, the psychological consequences of such confinement, and the response of U.S. courts and human rights experts. We then address the challenges and human rights responsibilities of physicians confronting this prison practice. We conclude by urging professional organizations to adopt formal positions against the prolonged isolation of prisoners with serious mental illness”. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 38:104–8, 2010
Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics a paper by Jeffrey L. Metzner, MD, and Jamie Fellner, esq.
The importance of the dual loyalty ethics dilemma for social workers and other health professionals working in solitary confinement settings is explained in the following Abstract of “Data-Driven Human Rights: Using Dual Loyalty Trainings to Promote the Care of Vulnerable Patients in Jail” – by Sarah Glowa-Kollisch, Jasmine Graves, Nathaniel Dickey, Ross MacDonald, Zachary Rosner, Anthony Waters, Homer Venters. Health and Human Rights 17/1, Published June 11, 2015. “The tension between protecting patients from harm and participating in punishment is a clear ethical dilemma for medical and mental health service providers. An additional difficulty for mental health staff is that their clinical training in assessing suicide risk is based on suicidality as a feature of mental illness,whereas self-harm in the NYC jail system is seen largely as a product of patients seeking to avoid solitary confinement, a seemingly adaptive behavior. Finally, patients interpret the health service to have lost independence from the security staff in some settings…”
Watch Expert Witness: Health Professionals On the Frontline Against Torture by Martha Davis
“Expert Witness tells the story of some remarkable health professionals who have fought state-sponsored torture despite the personal risk. In honoring their professional obligation to report abuse and protect torture victims, they are a special group of expert witnesses.” – Director Martha Davis
Professionals Speak Out About Torture and Dual Loyalty Conflicts
“Prison health professionals are often faced with dual loyalty conflicts between their health care duties and harmful prison procedures such as prolonged solitary confinement. This symposium brought together professionals uniquely qualified to discuss abusive conditions and what it takes to protect prisoner health care and the role of health personnel in preventing torture. The conference began with a screening of Expert Witness, followed by two panel discussions. The video recording of the proceedings is divided here into brief presentations by each panelist and the audience/panel discussion at the end.” – Expert Witnesses Against Torture
The speakers were as follows:
Mary Buser, LMSW; Johnny Perez, Leonard Rubenstein, JD, Jack Beck, JD; Shreya Mandel, JD, LMSW; Ross McDonald, MD; Allen Keller, MD; and co-chairs Tina Maschi, PhD, LMSW; and Martha Davis, PhD)