Read the Article Here.
The author describes social workers and other health professionals who protested the use of solitary confinement – cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, even torture. Several resigned, rather than violate their codes of ethics. A noted ethicist and the NASW Manager for Social Justice and Human Rights present NASW’s position – the responsibility for behaving ethically lies with members, not witih the social work professional institutions.
Comments by Sandy Bernabei, Co-convener, SWASC:
Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement (SWASC) has made numerous failed requests for our profession to lead in human rights and actually shape and define our ethics.
We are doing just that! Organizing a resisting and growing a national. base of social work professionals with lived life experience to pressure our profession to humanize and adhere to the human rights standards that we profess to stand by.
“Buser publicly commented on Mel Wilson’s NASW brief on solitary confinement, objecting to his conclusion that correctional social workers should “provide effective and quality mental health treatment to those segregated inmates with mental illness.” She argued that this is an impossible task. “There are no words — and there are no pills that will counteract the effects of prolonged isolation,” she wrote. “In the end, I felt I was little more than a monitor of human suffering — a far cry from the idealistic social worker I’d once been. There are thousands more who are now in my shoes and need the support of NASW.”
Moya Atkinson, who served as Executive Director of the NASW-MD chapter for about ten years, also pressures the NASW to strengthen its position against solitary. She co-founded and co-convenes the group Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement (SWASC), which published Mary Gamble’s article about resigning in protest from the detention facility.
Atkinson urges the NASW to draft a position statement similar to that of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). The 17-point NCCHC position statement defines prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 days as “cruel, inhumane, and degrading,” and condemns the placement of juveniles, pregnant women, and the mentally ill in segregation for any length of time. The NCCHC further states that correctional health professionals “should not condone or participate in cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of adults or juveniles in custody,” and that healthcare professionals should advocate for people to be removed from solitary and for prison policies to be reformed.”