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Lockdown on Rikers by Mary Buser

Lockdown On Rikers

Shocking Stories of Abuse and Injustice at New York's Notorious Jail
In Stores Now!

Winner of the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize for Non-Fiction

“...Mary E. Buser’s Lockdown on Rikers is both a work of literature and an appeal to the nation’s conscience in the tradition of Silent Spring and The Jungle..."

- Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times editor, Charles Duhigg.


Behind Bars

At Rikers

Solitary Confinement's Mockery of Human Rights

Bail: A Trap for the Innocent

mary's story

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.

lockdown on rikers

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Lockdown on Rikers shines a light into the deepest and most horrific recesses of the criminal justice system, and shows how far it has really drifted from the ideals we espouse.

Mary Buser's  book, "Lockdown on Rikers" (St. Martin's Press 9/29/2015), is the story of her 5-year experience in the Mental Health Department at New York City's Rikers Island.  From idealistic intern  who was going to "make a difference," to disillusioned assistant chief of the solitary confinement unit, Ms. Buser's journey chronicles life behind bars at one of the world's most infamous correctional complexes.

Photo Gallery

With fellow anti-solitary advocates, privileged to meet Rick Raemisch, legendary reformer & Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

With Civil Rights Legend, Vernon Jordan

Queens Book Festival

Queens Book Festival -- honored to be on the same panel as Malcolm Bell, courageous Attica prosecutor who wrote "The Attica Turkey Shoot"

Columbia School of Social Work

Discussing Lockdown on Rikers at Columbia University School of Social Work.

Lockdown on Rikers

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble

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