Solitary confinement conference draws a crowd


Make text smaller Make text larger



Photos



  • Photos by Litsa Binder Some 75 people attended a solitary confinement conference at the Sparta United Methodist Church on Nov. 7.






  • NJ State Senator Lesniak, sponsor of S2588, to restrict use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities, speaks with Rev. Janice Sutton Lynn, pastor of the Sparta United Methodist Church.




A replica Solitary Confinement Cell stood on the parking lot of the Sparta United Methodist Church on Nov. 7. Meanwhile, some 75 concerned citizens gathered inside the church to view the film “Breaking Down the Box” and to hear expert speakers discuss the need to impose strict limits on the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons.

Speakers from the American Friends Service Committee, the National Religious Committee Against Torture, the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ, and two individuals who had experienced solitary confinement in NJ prisons for decades addressed those attending the Solitary Confinement Awareness Conference. The artwork of one of the panelists, Ojere Lutalo, was displayed around the room.

NJ Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), sponsor of S.2588, the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act, attended the conference and spoke passionately of the urgent need for reform and encouraged participants to contact their own legislators to express their support for the bill. State Senate bill S.2588 and companion bill A.4510 in the Assembly will prohibit prisoner isolation unless there is reasonable cause to believe that an inmate poses a serious and immediate risk of harm to self or others, and only when restrictive intervention is insufficient.

The Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Trenton and Princeton Chapters made the Model Solitary Confinement Cell available to the community on Saturday and Sunday. Jeri Doherty, President of the Sussex County affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, spoke with several people who visited the Cell. They all agreed that a few minutes in the Cell were enough to convince them that solitary confinement in a “box” is torture. Doherty said she was moved by graffiti on the walls written by people who had visited the Cell, such as “How do you repair the man who’s been in here? “Reason for this cell is to break the human spirit,” “How is this rehabilitation?”, and “Total Madness."

“The conference was quite an eye opener," said Alice O’Rourke of Sparta. "It was moving, educational and activated something in me that needs to respond to this issue with action. I am truly floored that this is going on in our country to the extent and extremes that we heard about on Saturday,”

Others described the event as incredible and powerful.

The conference was sponsored by NAMI Sussex, The Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sussex County, the Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community, and the Church and Society Committee of the Sparta United Methodist Church.

Organizers said follow-up meetings with interested persons at the local level will include advocacy as well as prison ministry. Anyone interested in joining the group in its efforts to bring increased awareness to the community about solitary confinement and other criminal justice reform issues should contact Litsa Binder at litsa@embarqmail.com.




Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments

Pool Rules



MUST READ NEWS

Chocolate Goat turns 20
— The Chocolate Goat in Lafayette will be hosting their 20th anniversary sale, September 27-30. Everything storewide will be 20%...
Read more »
Image

Forgiveness: an open letter to Prof. Christine Blassey Ford, Ph.D.
First, I want to apologize for the recent events that have obviously been stressful on you, your husband and sons. When you gave an anonymous lead to your state representative a...
Read more »

'Coffee With a Cop' in Sparta
— Come, celebrate National Coffee With a Cop Day with your neighbors and Your Sparta police officers, at the Sparta Public Library...
Read more »
Image

Local doctor starts online service
— The Fall season brings changing leaves, apple picking, and pumpkin spice, but for some, it also...
Read more »

VIDEOS



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers



MOST COMMENTED



Find more about Weather in Sparta, NJ