Prominent Human Rights Lawyer to Visit Princeton to Launch NJ Campaign Against Prolonged Solitary Confinement in Prisons


International human rights lawyer Scott Horton will speak in Princeton on Jan. 8 to kick off a  state campaign to end the practice of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

The campaign is being launched by The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), a group founded by Princeton Theological Seminary Professor George Hunsinger.

Horton’s talk is titled “Popular Support for U.S. Torture:  Why It is Rising in the Most Recent Polls and What Can Be Done About It.” The event will include a short film introducing NRCAT’s work on solitary confinement. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt will be a special guest at the gathering.

Hunsinger’s group, which originally focused on U.S. torture abroad, is focusing on U.S. prison practices, where he says abuse is widespread.

“Out of sight, out of mind is not an acceptable moral stance,” he said, adding that since the time of Charles Dickens, people have known that extended solitary confinement causes severe harm, yet the practice has become increasingly common in U.S. prisons.

“It is time for religious communities to speak to this issue and to challenge the unthinking vengeance that dominates cultural attitudes towards prisoners,” Hunsinger said.

His group is working with other organizations, including the ACLU, to pass state legislation to limit the use of isolation cells in prisons.

In 2006, Hunsinger formed NRCAT in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal to address issues related to U.S. torture abroad.  Since the group’s founding, more than 310 religious organizations have become members, including representatives from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, mainline Protestant, Quaker, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist communities.

The group has successfully lobbied for an executive order halting the use of torture of post-9/11 detainees, has participated in campaigns against anti-Muslim bigotry, and continues to work for policies that would encourage other countries to take concrete steps to end torture.

Horton is known for his work in emerging markets, human rights law, and the law of armed conflict.  He writes for Harper’s Magazine, lectures at Columbia Law School, and is a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia.   He served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner  in the former Soviet Union. He recently led a number of studies for the New York Bar Association about abuse issues related to the war on terror.

Tickets for the Jan. 8 event can be reserved online at or purchased at the door.  The suggested donation is $50 per person. The event, which will be held at 187 Library Place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.,  includes a wine and cheese reception. For more information, contact Professor George Hunsinger at

Event committee members Beth Healey, Anne Reeves, and Virginia Kerr work on invitations.