Council on Social Work Education Plans to Introduce Solitary Confinement as a Human Rights Violation

 

Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) recently agreed to SWASC’s request to work together to develop instructional material on solitary confinement. It will be introduced under Competency #3 Human Rights. Within the United States, thousands of health professionals work with people experiencing solitary confinement –80,000-100,000 on any one day, 400,000 in a year, who are disproportionately poor, minority, mentally ill and disadvantaged.  This comes at a time when the social work profession is promoting the use of social workers in the criminal legal system, yet there is a dearth of information on the responsibilities and ethical dilemmas associated with their work.

We are most appreciative that Jane McPherson, PhD, MSW, MPH,  and a member of SWASC will act as our liaison with the CSWE Human Rights Committee, and that its Committee members, all volunteers will support SWASC.

Dr. McPherson’s work is focused at the intersection of social work and human rights. She is particularly interested in rights-based practices that address social inequalities and the unequal distribution of wealth, health, political power, and community wellness. Dr. McPherson organized the State of Florida for One Million Bones, an arts-activist, anti-genocide movement, which culminated in the laying of one million handmade bones on the National Mall in June 2013. She is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with over 20 years experience in the field. Motherhood, trauma, torture, and the special treatment needs of women have been her areas of clinical specialization. Her work has been global and local in scope, extending from rural Florida to New York City, Egypt and Brazil.

SWASC member Tina Maschi, PhD, LCSW, ACSW  ,a criminal justice expert who has published in the area of human rights and forensic social work practice, will work on creating Modules on Human Rights and Torture or ill-treatment. They will be based in part on:

  • the Istanbul Protocol and Principles -,an outline international, legal standards on protection against torture and specific guidelines on how effective legal and medical investigations into allegations of torture should be conducted; and
  • the “Mandela Rules“, standards on the treatment of prisoners enhanced for the 21st century. Among them is a provision that solitary confinement “shall be used only in exceptional cases as a last resort for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review.” The rules also prohibit indefinite solitary confinement and prolonged solitary confinement — defined as more than 15 consecutive days — as well as the solitary confinement of people with mental or physical disabilities where isolation would exacerbate their conditions. http://solitarywatch.com/2015/07/17/uns-mandela-rules-to-set-new-international-standards-for-treatment-of-prisoners-including-limits-on-solitary-confinement/

Dr. Maschi is an associate professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in New York City and licensed clinical social work with advanced certification. Her research interests include forensic interdisciplinary research and practice with justice involved individuals, families, and communities and the social determinants of health and justice.

She co-chaired a ground-breaking Symposium on Torture, Dual Loyalty and Human Rights in November, 2016. http://expertwitnessagainsttorture.com/prison-torture-dual-loyalty-conflicts-conference-video/.

Bonnie Kerness, MSW, has been an activist since she was a child. She has been a human rights advocate on behalf of prisoners since 1975, working as coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Project. She is a national expert on solitary confinement, and is an advisor to several other organizations, including California Prison Focus, Critical Resistance, Women Who Never Give Up, the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, and SolitaryWatch. She is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Roundtable, NJ Coalition Against Isolated Confinement, and the Integrated Justice Alliance Prisons Committee.

She has contributed to and appeared in numerous publications and news outlets, including Huffington Post, The Nation, Solitary Watch, NJTV, Truthout, Slate, Al Jazeera, NJ.com, Peace Review, a Journal of Social Justice, the Atlantic Journal of Communications, War Resisters League Magazine, New Politics Magazine, and others. https://www.afsc.org/media-kit/bios/bonnie-kerness.

A list of all the AFSC publications and media relating to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are a significant part of the Resources that SWASC has to offer CSWE for its Human Rights Competency.

Additional resources, via SWASC  are available on its website – http://www.socialworkersasc.org.

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