Thomas Silverstein: Judge rules conditions at supermax not "extreme"

The following story from Denver Westworld shows that the judge in Tom Silverstein’s case is not informed about what solitary confinement can do to a human being. Maybe he does not have to be informed, but to us as ordinary persons it is very strange to see that a human being, who has been in extreme isolation since 28 years, is not allowed to live with lesser punitive restrictions. Because keeping a person locked up in a dungeon for years and then in a supermax where he is moved repeatedly in order to not be able to talk to others IS intentionally cruel and permanently punitive. The added drawing by Tom shows his cell that was specially built to isolate him to the utmost form all others, except for a few guards. So the question rises: what kind of “good behavior” can a prisoner in isolation show to make it out to general population again? Tom Silverstein went without a write up for years on end (since 1988). This alone makes it retaliation and torture, if he is not allowed to better himself!

For all who want to read about Tom’s life inside and others at Leavenworth Federal prison, please read the book The Hot House, by Pete Earley, a journalist who was allowed to go inside for a considerable amount of time and write a book about his findings.

We hope that an appeal is possible and that judges will see that isolating human beings from each other for such extreme amounts of time is only punitive and retaliatory and does nothing to correct someone. It is extreme revenge.

One more note: Tom is not allowed any visitors who have never met him since his incarceration, so that leaves him with very few visitors… Also, it is known to us that mail to Tom does disappear. So maybe these judges should check these important issues too.

From: Denver Westworld Blogs
By Alan Prendergast Wed., Oct. 5 2011

Federal judges in Denver are of two minds about the kind of punishment doled out at the supermax penitentiary in Florence. While one is allowing a Tanzanian terrorist’s complaint about the prison’s restrictions on his mail and visitors to proceed to trial, another has thrown out Thomas Silverstein’s lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment as a result of more than a quarter-century of solitary confinement.

Conditions at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, or ADX, aren’t “atypically extreme,” Judge Philip Brimmer ruled.

Silverstein isn’t subject to the “special administrative measures” reserved for convicted terrorists at ADX, which severely limit their ability to communicate with any outsider, even family or legal counsel. But his journey through the federal prison system has been anything but typical.

A former Aryan Brotherhood leader, “Terrible Tommy” was convicted of four murders while in prison; one was later overturned. He’s now serving three consecutiive life sentences plus 45 years. The last killing, the 1983 slaying of a federal guard in the most secure unit of what was then the highest-security federal pen in the entire system, put him on a “no human contact” status that lasted for decades. For close to seventeen years he was housed in a specially designed, Hannibal-Lecter-like cell in the basement of Leavenworth where the lights were on 24 hours a day. In 2005 he was moved to a highly isolated range at ADX, as first reported in my feature “The Caged Life” (which also appears, with a coda, in The Best American Crime Reporting 2008).

Since Silverstein first filed his lawsuit in 2007, with assistance from student lawyers at the University of Denver, he’s been moved from his tomb in Range 13 to D Unit, which is considered “general population” at ADX. Inmates are still in solitary confinement and have meals in their cell, but they also have access to indoor and outdoor recreation and can shout to each other. That lessening in the general degree of Silverstein’s isolation seems to have been one factor in Brimmer’s decision to dismiss the former bank robber’s claims of enduring extreme deprivation and lack of any social contact.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials maintain that Silverstein’s placement in isolation is necessary because of his own extreme behavior — “plaintiff’s disciplinary record, in addition to the aforementioned murders, shows assaults of three staff members, a threat to a staff member, an attempt to escape by posing as a United States Marshal, and the discovery of weapons, handcuff keys, and lock picks in plaintiff’s rectum,” Brimmer notes.

But Silverstein hasn’t been cited for a disciplinary infraction since 1988, and even the BOP’s psychologists have rated the 59-year-old prisoner as having a “low” risk of violence for years.

Read the rest here