The Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture will be hosting a public event on the use of solitary confnement and other forms of torture and abuse within the New York State Prison System.

With close to 8 percent of its prison population in some form of segregation, New York far exceeds the national average for solitary confinement of prisoners. These inmates are even more invisible than they are in some other state systems, because New York has no high-profile supermax; rather, it isolates prisoners in Special Housing Units (SHUs) inside many of its 67 prisons.

The event–called “Torture in New York State Prisons?”–will take place on Tuesday, June 21st at 7 PM at Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Avenue (above 120th Street) on the Upper West Side.

Two of the featured speakers have been leading voices in exposing the use and abuse of solitary confinement in New York.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer is a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal, whose work has documented, among other things, the fate of prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement, and the high rate of suicides within New York’s SHUs.

Jack Beck directs the Visiting Project for the Correctional Association of New York, which has statutory authority to inspect prisons in New York State and to report its findings to the legislature and public; the CA’s report Lockdown New York is the best single source of information on solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.

A third speaker, from Riverside Church’s Prison Ministry, will talk about the ministry’s work inside New York State’s prisons.

The Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture is a chapter of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which recently initiated a campaign “to address the use of torture in U.S. prisons, with particular emphasis on the widespread use of long-term isolation.”

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