Mary Beth Pfeiffer—February 11-13, 2008

Mary Beth Pfeiffer has been an award-winning investigative journalist for more than 20 years. A long-time staff writer for the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal, her reporting has prompted the indictment of corrupt politicians, exposed government impotence and incompetence, and consistently championed the disenfranchised. Her work has appeared in a variety of other publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Village Voice, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, USA Weekend magazine and Des Moines Register.

Pfeiffer's reporting for the Journal 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 2004-05 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, Ms. Pfeiffer began her career in 1976 at the Staten Island (New York). 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. She was a freelance writer for the Village Voice from 1989 to 1992 and was awarded two Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation fellowships in the 1990s to report on public health issues. 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.


Thursday, February 7
7:00 p.m.: Decorah Public Library, Public panel discussion on her book Crazy in America

Tuesday, February 12, 7:00 p.m.
Center for Faith & Life Recital Hall, Public lecture "An American Scandal: The Criminalization of Mental Illness", reception and book signing following in Qualley Lounge

Wednesday, February 13,
10:30 a.m.: Speak in Daily Chapel, CFL Main Hall

Meetings with community advocates. Classroom visits in the social work and political science departments.