Join us for a conversation with three leaders of the movement to end solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails.
- Jean Casella, Director, Solitary Watch & Co-Organizer, Photo Requests from Solitary. Casella will briefly introduce the history and practice of solitary, which affects at least 80,000 individuals incarcerated in the United States today, as well as the genesis of the photo project.
- Johnny Perez, Director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and a survivor of solitary confinement. Perez will discuss his own experiences in solitary, along with the role solitary plays in enabling mass incarceration, and the urgent need to end it.
- Udi Ofer, Lecturer, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs & Director, Justice Division, ACLU National Political and Advocacy Department. Ofer will speak about his work on the New Jersey campaign that resulted in legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement as well as recent policy developments.
- Followed by a Q&A with panelists and audience members.
This event is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Photo Requests from Solitary: What Would Someone in Solitary Confinement Want to See? on view at the Bernstein Gallery through March 9, 2022. Photo Requests from Solitary is a collaborative project that invites individuals held in long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons to request a photograph of anything at all, real or imagined, and then finds volunteers to make the images. To date, the project has filled nearly 200 requests reflecting the interests, memories, and visions of people who live in extreme isolation, surrounded by gray walls.
Jean Casella is co-director of Solitary Watch, a watchdog group that investigates and documents the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails. Since its founding in 2009, Solitary Watch has increased public awareness and catalyzed change on a once-invisible domestic human rights issue. Her writing has been published by The Guardian, The Nation, Mother Jones, and many others, and she has been a Soros Justice Media Fellow. Casella is also co-organizer of Photo Requests from Solitary.
Udi Ofer (@UdiACLU) is the Deputy National Political Director of the ACLU and Director of the ACLU’s Justice Division, which leads the ACLU’s political, legislative, and electoral advocacy on criminal justice reform, policing, drug law reform and ending the death penalty. It also includes the Campaign for Smart Justice, which is the ACLU’s unprecedented campaign to cut nationwide incarceration rates by 50 percent and challenge racism in the criminal legal system. Since 2018, Ofer has also been a visiting lecturer at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, where he teaches a course on policing and civil rights, and a task force on mass incarceration.
Johnny Perez (@NRCATtweets, @MrJohnnyPerez) is the Director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. He adds insight and guidance as a proud participant on the Board of Directors of the Juvenile Law Center and the Urban Justice Center, both non-profit public interest law firms advocating for the rights, dignity, equity, and opportunities of underserved populations. Additionally, after three years in solitary confinement, he now leads a national movement to end the practice in coalition with the Unlock the Box Campaign. Mr. Perez recently joined as an advisory board member and research consultant of the Urban Institute’s Prison Research and Innovation Initiative, a comprehensive effort to spur innovation to make prisons humane, safe, and rehabilitative environments.
This event is open to Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. Register here to attend.
Image credit: African American family tree showing celebration of life events. Image requested by Keith. Photograph by Keisha Scarville. Courtesy of Photo Requests from Solitary.