Monday, June 18, 2012

TOMORROW: Faith leaders to fast to limit solitary confinement before Hill hearing

Media Advisory: June 18, 2012
Samantha Friedman, office: (202) 265-3000 or cell: (202) 215-9260 or

TOMORROW: Faith Leaders to Discuss Opposition to Prolonged Solitary Confinement
Capitol Hill press conference to conclude 23-hour nationwide fast following first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement

Washington, D.C.A group of religious leaders will end a 23-hour nationwide fast on Tuesday, June 19, at 12 p.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, interceding on behalf of the tens of thousands of American prisoners currently housed in solitary confinement across the country.  The fast will be held in conjunction with a Senate hearing on the use of solitary confinement in the U.S. federal penitentiary system.  This is the first time Congress has explored this issue.

Hundreds of people of faith across the country have agreed to take part in the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s “23-Hour Fast to End 23-Hour Solitary” in anticipation of Tuesday’s Senate hearing.  The length of the fast symbolizes the 23 hours per day inmates are typically required to spend in solitary confinement cells.  As evidenced by recent prisoner hunger strikes in Virginia and California, refusing food is one of the few means prisoners across the country have to protest their conditions in solitary confinement.  The fast is intended to draw attention to the physical, emotional and psychological harm caused by prolonged solitary confinement.

A 12 p.m. press conference Tuesday will include a ceremonial “breaking of the bread” among religious leaders of various faiths, to conclude the fast.  Among those attending will be:

·         Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
·         Linda Gustitus, President, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
·     Dave Louden, Chief of Staff, Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship Ministries
·         Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights, General Board of Church and Society of   the United Methodist Church
·         Maggie Siddiqi, Program Coordinator, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America
·         Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Director of North American Programs, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
·    Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director, Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness
·         Kathy McNeely, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
·         Archbishop Michael Seneco, Presiding Bishop, North American Old Catholic Church
·         Rev. Jonathan Barton, General Minister, Virginia Council of Churches

The press conference is open to the media, and coverage is welcome.  Photo and video opportunities will be available.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) has been outspoken and effective in its efforts to limit the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.  Its press conference will follow a hearing, Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences,” convened at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 19, in Dirksen 226 by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

What: Discussion on the harmful use of solitary confinement in our nation’s federal prisons, jails, and detention centers

When: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, at 12 p.m.

Where: Room 216, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Who: The National Religious Campaign Against Torture and supporters

Why: To share the reasons prolonged solitary confinement is morally, psychologically and physically harmful, as well as economically detrimental, and to discuss alternatives
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a growing membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, 315 religious organizations have joined NRCAT, including representatives from the Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and local congregations. More information is available at