Skip to content Skip to navigation

Bonnie Kerness

Bonnie Kerness

Bonnie Kerness
Photo: AFSC
Prison Watch Coordinator
Areas of Expertise: 
Solitary confinement | Mass incarceration | Prisoners’ rights

Bonnie Kerness serves as the coordinator for AFSC’s Prison Watch Program, based in Newark, NJ. In this capacity, she provides human rights monitoring and advocacy support to imprisoned individuals and their family members, collects testimonies of prisoners reporting abuses committed behind bars, and creates resources to help people in prison.

At 14, Bonnie became an anti-racist activist, participating in the  Civil Rights Movement, and being  trained as an organizer in Tennessee by the NAACP and Highlander Center. Moving north in 1970, she became active with welfare, tenants’ rights and anti-war issues. She began working for AFSC’s Criminal Justice Program in Newark in 1976. She is a national expert on solitary confinement, and is an advisor to several other organizations, including California Prison Focus, Critical Resistance, Women Who Never Give Up, the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, and SolitaryWatch. She is also a member of the Juvenile Justice Roundtable, NJ Coalition Against Isolated Confinement, and the Integrated Justice Alliance Prisons Committee.

She has contributed to the publications of “Our Children’s House – testimonies on juvenile imprisonment,” “Torture in US Prisons – Evidence of US Human Rights Violations,” “The Prison Inside the Prison: Control Units, Supermax Prisons and Devices of Torture,” “Survivor’s Manual: How to Survive in Solitary Confinement” and “Inalienable Rights.” More recently, she helped publish “Torture in New Jersey Prisons” and “Survivors’ Speak,” which was submitted to the United Nations as a Shadow Report for the Committee on Torture.

Bonnie has appeared in numerous publications and news outlets, including Huffington Post, The Nation, Solitary Watch, NJTV, Truthout, Slate, Al Jazeera, NJ.com, Peace Review, a Journal of Social Justice, the Atlantic Journal of Communications, War Resisters League Magazine, New Politics Magazine, and others.

From the Inside, Out: A Lifetime of Activism / An Interview with Bonnie Kerness from Institute for Women's Leadership on Vimeo.