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National Organization of Forensic Social Work


Social Work Ethics and Solitary Confinement: A Struggle with Dual Loyalty

Faculty: Ali Winters, DSW, LCSW and Mary Buser, LCSW

This live interactive webinar is designed for forensic social workers who are interested in learning more about how to navigate ethical dilemmas, in particular that of dual loyalty – a conflict between competing loyalties of the workplace and client. Ali Winters and Mary Buser, two forensic social workers and activists against solitary confinement, will discuss the dangers of prolonged solitary confinement and its effects on the individual, family, organization, and community. They will then walk through the dimensions of ethical practice when this conflict of dual loyalty exists. The presentation will end with a focus on the elements nestled within this ethical dilemma and the decisions made by each social worker.


March 30, 2022

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time

This 1.5 credit course was developed for social work professionals.

Content level: beginning to intermediate

About the instructors

Mary Buser LCSW, worked as a clinical social worker in the Mental Health Department on Rikers Island during the Giuliani administration's celebrated crackdown on crime. She began her Rikers sojourn as a student intern at the Rose Singer Center, where she provided therapy to incarcerated women, including a support group for mothers in the island's nursery.

After earning her Master's degree, she returned to Rikers to work at the George Motchan Detention Center, a maximum security facility for male detainees.  Here, she provided both individual and group therapy to the general population, as well as to the jail's mentally ill inmates. Three years later, Ms. Buser was promoted to an assistant mental health chief.  In this capacity, she supervised treatment at the "Mental Health Center," the 350-bed facility for the city jail system's most seriously mentally ill inmates. Following her stint at the Mental Health Center, Ms. Buser worked at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center, which was structurally attached to the 500-cell Punitive Segregation Unit, aka, The Bing.  Here, Ms. Buser supervised a mental health team in treating inmates held in solitary confinement, as punishment for various jailhouse infractions.  Prior to Rikers Island, Ms. Buser co-founded and served as Executive Director of The Samaritans of New York, a suicide prevention hotline.  In this capacity, she assisted the New York City Police Department in the production of a suicide prevention film that was subsequently shown to all incoming cadets.  Ms. Buser also testified before the New York City Council as to the extent of teenage suicide citywide. Ms. Buser also worked at the Osborne Association's drug-rehab facility, El Rio, as well as at the Upper Manhattan Mental Health Center. She received her Master's Degree from Columbia University.

Ali Winters, DSW, MSW is an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensic Social Work Concentration Coordinator at the University of Tennessee. She earned her DSW from the University of Tennessee in 2015, her MSW from the University of Alabama in 1996, and her BSSW from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1992. With over 27 years of direct social work practice experience, Dr. Winters’ primary areas of social work practice have been forensic social work in corrections and juvenile justice, direct trauma-based service delivery, program development and evaluation, and behavioral health in healthcare settings. Dr. Winters has also been active in providing clinical supervision and leadership since earning her LCSW in 2005. Her principal areas of research interest include women in solitary confinement, female criminogenic pathways and needs, prison culture and decision-making, ethics, comorbid PTSD/SUDs treatment, and best practices in trauma-informed care.


Learning objectives

After attending this course, participants will be able to…

1. Describe the dangers of prolonged solitary confinement.

2. List competing loyalties of the workplace and client facing social workers working with individuals facing prolonged solitary confinement.

3. Describe the decision options faced by each social worker within this ethical dilemma.


This live webinar is fully interactive. Attendees may ask and answer questions throughout the presentation and participate in instructor-led discussions.

System requirements:

• Operating Systems: Windows XP or higher, MacOS 9 or higher, Android 4.0 or higher

• Internet Browser: Internet Explorer 9.0 or higher, Google Chrome, Firefox 10.0 or higher

• Broadband Internet connection: Cable, High-speed DSL & any other medium that is internet accessible.

Fee & registration

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. There is no fee for NOFSW members.  The fee is $50 for non-members. CE credit fee is $40.  Register by March 25, 2022. Cancellations must be received 24 hours prior to the live webinar to receive a refund.

Course completion & CE info

Course completion requirements: To earn CE credit, social workers must log in at the scheduled time, attend the entire course and complete an online course evaluation. Certificates of completion will be emailed within 10 business days of course completion.

National Organization of Forensic Social Work, provider # 1234, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. National Organization of Forensic Social Work maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/04/2022–08/04/2025.

For questions, concerns, or to request special accommodations, please email

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