Moya Atkinson, former NASW-MD E.D. (1993-2002) and Member; Co-founder of Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement (SWASC)

On February 2, 2019, at my request, the NASW-MD Executive Director forwarded the email below to the 55 chapter executive directors. Since we received no responses, we are writing again with a sense of urgency and deep concern. After all, the number of people who experience the hell of being caged in a space the size of a parking lot, many without having been charged for any crimes, with virtually no human contact is over 400,000 in any given year. And health professionals, including social workers are involved in the collusion that allows the inhumane treatment amounting to torture of so many people, including juveniles, disabled and elderly people.  We’re curious to know if you received our Letter, and we welcome your responses, which will be kept confidential.

Dear Chapter Executives:I thank Daphne McClellan, the Maryland Chapter and other chapters for this opportunity to advocate for the abolition of solitary confinement and its replacement with humane alternatives.

We started Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement (SWASC) in 2014, thanks to social worker Mary Buser’s OpEd in the Washington Post describing her horrific experiences at Rikers Island Jail.

SWASC believes that our professional associations and institutions must assume responsibility for members’ protection and accountability. It is unrealistic for them to expect individual health professionals to report abuses and attempt to make changes within the penal system without such institutional support. This amounts to the associations’ and institutions’ collusion with the most egregious parts of the system itself.

We are a chapter of the Social Welfare Action Alliance and are in the process of joining the Association for Community Organization and Social Action (ACOSA). The Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) agrees to our creation of instructional materials to assist faculty to teach about solitary confinement.

We ask you to do the following:

  1. Sign the following petition to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) for their 35 representatives to create an environment with Mandates, not Guidelines; where the associations take responsibility, not ONLY the individuals.
  2. Sign onto our website at Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement.  Invite others to sign.  
  3.  Receive our newsletter End Solitary! by joining our MailChimp list. Provide your names and email addresses – as a chapter and as individuals – to me. We will email you our most recent issue with resources shortly. Check out our previous issues on our website.
  4. Join our listserv as liaisons to your chapters. Provide a brief bio with your photo – check our website under for examples.

We thank the chapter leaders and members who are already directly involved in working to end solitary confinement and look forward to hearing from all of you about your interest in future involvement! You are our inspiration and hope!

Best wishes,

Moya Atkinson, Co-Founder and Co-Convener
Sandy Bernabei, Co-Convener

Current Co-Signers, organized by state:

Nancy Arvold, CA

Willow Katz, CA

Shuli Lotan, CA

Marilyn Montenegro, CA

Cathy Ralph, CA

Tanya Rhodes Smith, CT

Anne Anderson, DC

Mary Gamble, MD

Michael Reisch, MD

Flower Noble, ME, Journal of Progressive Human Services

Mary Pelton-Cooper, MI, President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR)

Kim Coalter, MS

Sabrina Southern, NC

Bonnie Kerness, NJ

Sandy Bernabei, NY

Mary Buser, NY

Martha Davis, NY

Gail Golden, NY

Katy Leidel, NY

Five Muallimm ak, NY

Melissa Sydor-Kaurfman, NY

Monica Beemer, OR

Cedar Dvorin, VA