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WAMC Speakers Corner
Fri May 8, 2009
Alan Chartock... In Conversation with Mary Beth Pfeiffer
Albany, NY – Mary Beth Pfeiffer is an award winning investigative journalist whose career spans more than 25-years.
Pfeiffer's reporting drew national attention in 2001 when she began a three-year series of reports on a rarely explored and little reported reality of prison life: suicides. Pfeiffer learned, shockingly, that mentally ill inmates in New York State prisons were systematically put into solitary confinement for long periods, leading to psychological breakdown, self-mutilation and, sometimes, suicide. As a 2004-2005 Soros Justice Media Fellow, she found horrific abuses around the country of imprisoned people with mental illness who, as in New York, were being shunted to the furthest edge of prison society where they were punished because they were ill. Her October 2004 article in the New York Times Magazine, about the suicide of a 21-year-old mentally ill woman in a solitary confinement unit, became the genesis for Crazy in America: The Hidden Tragedy of Our Criminalized Mentally Ill.
Born and raised in New York City, Pfeiffer began her career in 1976 at the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance, where she won awards for environmental reporting as well as other work. In 1982, she joined the staff of the Poughkeepsie Journal, where she was a feature writer and later editorial writer before being named the newspaper's chief investigative writer and editor. Among her many awards, she has been honored by the Scripps Howard Foundation, National Headliner Awards, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, New York State Associated Press Association, New York Publishers Association, National Mental Health Association, Inter America Press Association, the Gannett Company, New York City Deadline Club and others. Her reporting on New York State prisons won a dozen state and national awards from 2001 to 2006.