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The Caged Life

Is Thomas Silverstein a prisoner of his own deadly past — or the first in a new wave of locked-down lifers?

When the goon squad showed up at his place at five in the morning, Tommy Silverstein knew something was up. He wasn't accustomed to greeting guests at such an ungodly hour — much less a team of corrections officers, helmeted and suited up for action.

In fact, Silverstein wasn't used to company at any hour. His home was a remote cell, known as the Silverstein Suite, in the special housing unit of the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. He'd been cut off from other inmates and all but a few emissaries from the outside world for more than two decades.

He stayed in the Silverstein Suite 23 hours a day. His interactions with staff typically amounted to some tight-lipped turnkey delivering his food through a slot in the cell door. The only change of scenery came when an electronic door slid open, allowing him an hour's solitary exercise in an adjoining recreation cage. Visitors were rarely permitted, and entire years had gone by during which he never left the cell.

Lockdown world: Thomas Silverstein in 2005, a few months after his arrival at ADX, in Atlanta in the 1980s (inset) around the time he began his tour in solitary.
Lockdown world: Thomas Silverstein in 2005, a few months after his arrival at ADX, in Atlanta in the 1980s (inset) around the time he began his tour in solitary.
High lonesome: Located in the heart of a four-prison complex outside Florence, ADX was the government's solution to violence at other high-security prisons.
High lonesome: Located in the heart of a four-prison complex outside Florence, ADX was the government's solution to violence at other high-security prisons.
Dreams of flight: Silverstein learned about art in prison and discovered his "niche in life."
Dreams of flight: Silverstein learned about art in prison and discovered his "niche in life."
Alone in the crowd: Any trip outside his cell requires a heavy escort for inmate #14634-116.
Alone in the crowd: Any trip outside his cell requires a heavy escort for inmate #14634-116.

But this day was different. Silverstein could think of only a couple of reasons why so many well-padded, well-equipped officers would be at his door, ordering him to strip for a search. Cell shakedown? Time for a game of hockey, with Tommy as the puck? No, that was a captain leading the squad. Something big.

A transfer.

So it came to pass that on July 12, 2005, U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate #14634-116 left his cage in Kansas for one in Colorado. Security for the move was tighter than Borat's Speedo — about what you'd expect for a former Aryan Brotherhood leader convicted of killing four men behind prison walls. (One conviction was later overturned; Silverstein disputes the second slaying but admits the other two.) The object of all this fuss didn't mind the goon squad. He was enjoying the view — and hoping that the move signaled the end to his eight-thousand-plus days of solitary confinement. Maybe, just maybe, his decades of uneventful good behavior had paid off.

"They said for me to keep my nose clean, and maybe one day it'd happen," he recalled recently. "So I foolishly thought this was it. If you saw me in that van, you'd think I was Disneyland-bound, smiling all the way."

But the smile vanished after Silverstein reached his destination: the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, better known as ADX. Located two miles outside of the high-desert town of Florence, ADX is the most secure prison in the country, a hunkered-down maze of locks, alarms and electronic surveillance, designed to house gang leaders, terrorists, drug lords and other high-risk prisoners in profound isolation. Its current guest list is a who's who of enemies of the state, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, shoe bomber Richard Reid, plane bomber Dandenis Muñoz Mosquera, abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph and double-agent Robert Hanssen.

When it opened in 1994, ADX was hailed as the solution to security flaws at even the highest levels of the federal prison system. Much of the justification for building the place stemmed from official outrage at the brutal murders of two guards in the control unit of the federal pen in Marion, Illinois, during a single 24-hour period in 1983. The first of those killings was committed by Thomas Silverstein, who was already facing multiple life sentences for previous bloodshed at Marion. The slaying of corrections officer Merle Clutts placed Silverstein under a "no human contact" order that's prevailed ever since, and it gave the Bureau of Prisons the perfect rationale for building its high-tech supermax. Although he never bunked there until 2005, you could call ADX the House that Tommy Built.

What greeted Silverstein two years ago was nothing like Disneyland. His hosts hustled him down long, sterile corridors with gleaming black-and-white checkerboard floors that reminded him of A Clockwork Orangeor some other cinematic acid trip. One set of doors, then another and another, until he finally arrived at the ass-end of Z Unit, on a special range with only four cells, each double-doored. His new home was less than half the size of the Silverstein Suite and consisted of a steel slab with a thin mattress, a steel stool and desk, a steel sink-and-toilet combination, a steel shower and a small black-and-white TV.

Stripped of most of his small store of personal belongings, Silverstein had little to do besides take stock of his eighty-square-foot digs. The Silverstein Suite was a penthouse at the Plaza compared to this place. There were steel rings on the sides of the bed platform, ready for "four-pointing" difficult inmates. A camera mounted on the ceiling to record his every move. If he stood on the stool and peered out the heavily meshed window, he could get a glimpse of a concrete recreation cage and something like sky. So this was his reward for all those years of following the rules — 24-hour surveillance in his own desolate corner of the Alcatraz of the Rockies. He was no longer simply in the belly of the beast. He was, he would later write, "stuck in its bowels, with no end/exit in sight."

The double doors muffled sound from outside. But over time, Silverstein realized that there was one other prisoner on the range. He shouted greetings. The man shouted back. He asked the man how long he'd been in the unit. Four years, the man said.

Silverstein told the man his name. His neighbor introduced himself: Yousef. Ramzi Yousef. Convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the one that killed six people and injured a thousand. Nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaeda leader who recently confessed to planning that failed effort to bring down the towers as well as the 9/11 attacks.

His keepers had put Silverstein in the beast's bowels, all right — right next to the one man in the entire federal system more loathed than he was. Still, it was somebody to talk to. Shouting to Yousef was the first conversation with another inmate that Silverstein had managed in almost twenty years.

But talking wasn't allowed. Within days, a new barrier was erected in the corridor outside his cell, preventing any further communication between the two residents of the range. Inmate #14634-116's transfer to ADX was now complete.

Entombed, Terrible Tommy was alone again. Naturally.


In the late 1980s, Pete Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, persuaded Bureau of Prison officials to grant him an unprecedented degree of access to inmates and staff at the Leavenworth penitentiary. Earley was allowed to walk the yard without an escort, to interview inmates without official monitoring, to talk candidly with veteran corrections officers about the dangers and frustrations of their work.

The resulting book, The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, is one of the most vivid works of prison reportage ever published. Among several unsettling portraits of career criminals and their keepers, the most memorable character is probably one Thomas Silverstein, who was then being housed, a la Hannibal Lecter, in a zoo-like cage in Leavenworth's basement, where the fluorescent lights stayed on around the clock to make it easier to watch him. Wild-haired and bearded — the BOP would not allow him a razor or a comb — Silverstein spent hours talking into Earley's tape recorder, describing his violent past and the petty torments he claimed the guards were putting him through in an effort to drive him insane.

Earley's book made Leavenworth's dungeon monster seem not only rational but quite possibly human. Granting a journalist unfettered access to him was a public relations blunder the BOP has been unwilling to repeat. Silverstein hasn't been allowed to have a face-to-face interview with a reporter for the past fifteen years. When Westword recently asked to visit him, ADX warden Ron Wiley promptly denied the request, citing "continued security concerns." But then, Wiley and his predecessors haven't let any journalist inside ADX to interview any inmate since 2001 because of "continued security concerns" (see related story).

Although he readily agreed to an interview with Westword, Silverstein isn't a huge fan of the press, either. He remains friendly with Earley, but he's learned to be wary of hit-and-run tabloid writers following in his wake, eager to write about "the most dangerous prisoner in America." Most of what the outside world knows about him, if it pays any attention at all, is the fragmentary image presented in The Hot House; he's a captive of his own legend, like some prehistoric insect trapped in amber. His letters seethe with contempt for lazy "plagiarists" who have simply appropriated snatches of Earley's account as well as for those who've produced long magazine pieces or cheeseball cable programs about the Aryan Brotherhood that largely rely on the lurid tales of government snitches.

"For some odd reason the media pees when Master snaps his fingers," he wrote recently. "I wouldn't call 'em 'mainstream' any more cuz there isn't anything mainstream about 'em. They're just lackeys for the powers that be."

Silverstein's response to the "injurious lies" spread about him has been to launch his own information campaign at www.tommysilverstein.com. That's right — America's most solitary prisoner, a man who's been inside since before the personal computer was invented and has never been allowed near one, has his own website, maintained by outside supporters who forward messages to him and post his responses.

"He's got a pretty impressive network," says Terry Rearick, a California private investigator who has communicated with Silverstein by letter and phone over several years. After the two lost touch for a time, Rearick got a call from a woman in England on Silverstein's behalf.

The same woman posts regularly on the website, where Silverstein himself duels at length with his detractors. (A similarly heated debate has ignited over the wording of Silverstein's entry on Wikipedia; his defenders and his critics alternately revise the account to suit their competing versions of his crimes.) Some visitors to his site dismiss him as a textbook psychopath. But Silverstein contends that if people understood the grim context in which the killings at Marion took place, the snitch games and psychological warfare and organized violence of prison life, they wouldn't be so quick to demonize him.

It's a strangely disconnected argument — a garbled dialogue between cultures on different planets. Most of the visitors to his website know little about Silverstein's world, just as he knows little about theirs. He's been in prison for the past 32 years, and much of what he's learned about life on the street since he was put in solitary in 1983 has come from reading or watching television. No American prisoner, not even Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, has ever been condemned to such a walled-off existence for such a long period of time. Many of Stroud's years of solitary confinement were spent in relative ease at Leavenworth; he had not only frequent visitors, but also a full-time secretary. Even his seventeen-year stretch in Alcatraz allowed for much more daily communication with others than Silverstein has had.

"I'm amazed that he's not stark, raving mad," says Paul Wright, the editor of Prison Legal News, who's corresponded with Silverstein for years and published some of his writing. "He's been in total isolation for almost 25 years. The only people I can think of that have been held in anything remotely like this in modern times are some of the North Korean spies held in South Korea."

Yet the no-contact conditions imposed on Silverstein are becoming less unique by the day. There are now 31 supermax prisons in the country, with more under construction, including Colorado's own 948-bed sequel to the current state supermax, known as Colorado State Penitentiary II. They are costly on several levels — the operational expense per cell can be double that of a less-secure prison, and the rate of mental illness in solitary confinement far exceeds that of the general prison population — but lockdown prisons are all the rage with a vengeful public. Increasingly, they are being used not for short-term punishment (disciplinary segregation) but for long-term confinement of hard-to-manage inmates (administrative segregation), whose privileges keep shrinking. Colorado, for example, no longer allows journalists to interview its supermax inmates except by mail.

"The phenomenon is disturbingly common," says David Fathi, a staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project. "If it's disciplinary confinement, it's finite — when you're done, you're done. But with administrative segregation, there's a real lack of transparency about what a prisoner can do to earn his way out."

In the federal system, the past decade has seen the rise of "special administrative measures," or SAMs, which are imposed on terrorists or other inmates whose communications with the outside world "could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons." There are now at least two dozen SAMs cases in federal prisons, including Yousef and Zacarias Moussaoui, whose access to mail, phone calls, media interviews or other visits are extremely limited or banned outright. At present the restrictions must be approved by the U.S. Attorney General, but the Bush administration is considering changes that would allow wardens at ADX or other high-security prisons to designate inmates as terror threats and thus ban them from all media contact — even if they haven't been convicted on terrorism charges yet, Fathi notes.

Silverstein isn't a SAMs case. He still has his website and his mail (although he claims it's frequently withheld or "messed with" in other ways). But he may be the prototype of what the government has in mind for other infamous prisoners — to bury them in strata of supermax security to the point of oblivion.

Responding in letters to questions about the psychological impact of his isolation, Silverstein struggles to find the right words. "Trying to explain it is like trying to explain what an endless toothache feels like," he writes. "I wish I could paint what it's like."

In an article a few years ago, he called solitary confinement "a slow constant peeling of the skin, stripping of the flesh, the nerve-wracking sound of water dripping from a leaky faucet in the still of the night while you're trying to sleep. Drip, drip, drip, the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, constantly drip away with no end or relief in sight."


In a Darwinian world, predators have to adapt or die, just like their prey. Tommy Silverstein arrived in the federal prison system at a critical phase of its evolution, when the number of inmate assaults on other inmates and staff was rising sharply and officials were looking at the idea of control units as a way to neutralize the growing threat posed by prison gangs. Silverstein quickly became a symbol of the problem — and the inadequacy of the proposed solution. It's not a stretch to say that the Marion control unit helped to make him what he became, just as the mayhem that erupted there helped to reshape the American prison system.

Before he reached the nether regions of the BOP, Silverstein's criminal career had been thoroughly unremarkable. Born in 1952 in California, he'd grown up in a middle-class neighborhood in Long Beach, but he was bullied by other kids who thought he was Jewish. (According to The Hot House,Silverstein's biological father was a man named Thomas Conway, whom his mother divorced when Tommy was four years old; she later married a man named Silverstein.) As a teenager, he ripped off houses for money to buy drugs; his sister, Sydney McMurray, says he was battling a heroin addiction and problems with his volatile, controlling mother.

"We were taught never to throw the first punch, but never to walk away from a fight," McMurray recalls. "My brother started getting into trouble because he was running away from a violent environment at home. Then he got into drugs, and he became a brother I never knew."

At nineteen, Silverstein landed in San Quentin for armed robbery. Paroled, he was soon arrested again for series of robberies — pulled with Conway and another relative — that yielded less than $1,400. This time, he went into the federal system on a fifteen-year jolt. He was 23 years old, and his life on the streets was already over.

At Leavenworth Silverstein became closely associated with Aryan Brotherhood members who allegedly controlled the heroin trade inside the prison — close enough that when convict Danny Atwell was found stabbed to death, supposedly because he'd refused to be a mule for the heroin business, Silverstein and two other AB members were charged with the murder. In 1980, he was convicted at trial on the basis of shifting testimony from other inmates and sentenced to life in prison. A federal appeals court later ruled that much of the testimony should never have been allowed and threw out the conviction. But by that time, Silverstein was in the Marion penitentiary and facing more murder charges.

Marion opened in 1963, the same year that Alcatraz closed. It was intended to be not just a replacement for the Rock but an improvement, with a more open design and modern rehabilitation programs. Yet by the late 1970s, it had the most restrictive segregation unit in the BOP; not coincidentally, it was also the most violent prison in America, a dumping ground for gang leaders and crazies. Between 1979 and 1983, the prison logged 81 inmate assaults on other inmates and 44 on staff; 13 prisoners were killed. BOP reports issued in 1979 and 1981 proposed turning the entire facility into a "closed-unit operation."

Confined to a one-man cell in the control unit 23 hours a day, Silverstein says he spent much of his time learning how to draw and paint. "I could hardly read, write or draw when I first fell," he explains. "But most of us lifers are down for so long and have so much time to kill that we actually fool around and discover our niche in life, often in ways we never even dreamt possible on the streets. We not only find our niche, we excel."

Prison officials worried that Silverstein was finding his niche in other areas, too. Long-simmering disputes between white and black gangs had a way of coming to a boil in the control unit. In 1981, D.C. Blacks member Robert Chappelle was found dead in his cell. He'd apparently been sleeping with his head close to the bars and had been strangled with a wire slipped around his neck, plied by someone exercising on the tier. Silverstein and another convicted killer, Clayton Fountain, received life sentences for the crime; inmates who testified for the prosecution claimed the two had boasted of it.

Silverstein has always denied killing Chappelle. (Another inmate later claimed to have done the deed, but investigators found his confession at odds with the facts.) Yet even if he hadn't been convicted in court, the suspicion that he was responsible was sufficient to trigger more violence. Shortly after the slaying, the BOP saw fit to transfer one of Chappelle's closest friends, D.C. Blacks leader Raymond "Cadillac" Smith, to the Marion control unit from another prison. Within days, Smith had tried to stab Silverstein and shoot him with a zip gun. Silverstein and Fountain responded by cutting their way out of an exercise cage with a piece of hacksaw blade and paying a visit to Smith while he was in the shower. Smith was stabbed 67 times, in what Silverstein still describes as an act of convict self-defense.

"Everyone knew what was going on and no one did anything to keep us apart," he told Earley. "The guards wanted one of us to kill the other."

At the time, there was no federal death penalty for inmate homicides — and not much the system could do to Silverstein, who was already serving multiple life sentences in the worst unit of the worst prison the BOP had to offer. But some staffers, concerned about Silverstein's outsized rep among white inmates, apparently did their best to keep him in check. In the months that followed Cadillac's death, Silverstein began to regard Officer Merle Clutts, a bull-headed regular of the control unit, as his chief tormentor.

Silverstein has given different explanations about what Clutts did to deserve such attention. Clutts trashed his cell during shakedowns and withheld mail; he smudged his artwork and taunted him; he even tried to set him up for attack by other inmates, Silverstein has suggested. Silverstein claims he told Earley "the whole story," but only pieces made it into The Hot House. Earley won't comment, saying he no longer discusses Silverstein with other reporters because of past misunderstandings.

The BOP has denied that Clutts harassed Silverstein. Whatever the source of the feud might have been, there's no question that Silverstein became fixated on Clutts. One study by Harvard psychiatrist Stuart Grassian suggests that prisoners in control units sometimes experience "the emergence of primitive, aggressive fantasies of revenge, torture, and mutilation" of the guards who watch over them.

Silverstein thought about Clutts, and he thought about the difficulties involved in getting to his enemy when he was allowed out of his cell only one hour a day, shackled, escorted by three guards.

Locked down for life, he had a mountain of time to consider the problem.


One day in solitary is pretty much like another. Prisoners have different strategies for filling up their days, but there are always more days to come.

In his cell at Florence, 54-year-old Tom Silverstein usually rises before dawn, catches up on letters and reads, waiting for the grand event that is the delivery of his breakfast. He goes to rec for an hour, comes back to the grand event that is lunch, showers and cleans his cell. Time for some channel-flipping on the small black-and-white TV, in search of something fresh amid the religious chatter and educational programs he's watched over and over. More reading, some yoga. Then dinner, more TV - he's a sucker for Survivor, Big Brotherand other "reality-type shows" — and so to bed.

When he was in the Silverstein Suite at Leavenworth, Silverstein had access to paintbrushes, pens and other art supplies. At ADX, he's only permitted pastels, colored pencils and "cheap-ass paper," he reports; consequently, he hasn't drawn a lick since he's been there. He says that every few weeks, he's moved from the cell with the heavily meshed window to one with no window at all, then back again a few weeks later. There are rare, glorious interruptions in the routine — a visit with sister Sydney last May, an occasional lawyer checking in. Visitors sit in a booth outside the cell and talk to him on a phone; he sits shackled on the other side of a glass partition and talks back. But these dazzling bursts of conversation quickly fade into a muddle. Did the last lawyers come before or after his sister? Silverstein isn't sure.

"It's all a blur, a dream state of mind," he writes. "Like my memories. When I venture back to my yesterdays, it's hard to distinguish fact from fiction."

Yet there is one memory, one day that stands out from all the rest — the day that started it all. Twenty-four years later, Silverstein is still in the position of analyzing, defending and regretting the act that has defined his fate. But nothing can explain away the act itself, a murder that was meticulously planned and ruthlessly executed.

Marion wasn't designed to be a supermax. Control unit prisoners had to be shackled and escorted to the shower every day, and the guards permitted them to have brief conversations with other inmates in cells along the way. On October 22, 1983, Silverstein was on his way back from his shower when another inmate in a rec cage called over one of his three escorts — Merle Clutts. Now flanked by only two guards, Silverstein paused at the cell of one of his buddies, Randy Gometz, and struck up a conversation.

Before the guards knew what was happening, Gometz had reached through the bars, uncuffed Silverstein with a hidden key — and supplied him with a shank. Silverstein broke away from the guards and headed toward Clutts, now isolated at the far end of the tier. "This is between me and Clutts!" he shouted.

He stabbed the officer forty times before the dying Clutts could make it off the tier. Hours later, Silverstein's friend Clayton Fountain pulled the same handcuff trick and attacked three more guards in the control unit, fatally wounding Robert L. Hoffman Sr.

Two federal officers slaughtered in one day, on what was supposed to be the most secure unit in the entire BOP, sent the system into shock. The bureau's response was to forge ahead with the long-considered plan to turn all of Marion into a control unit while whisking Silverstein and Fountain into even more restricted quarters. (Fountain died in 2004 at the age of 48).

For years prison activists attempted to challenge the Marion lockdown in court, charging that the prison staff set about beating other prisoners and subjecting them to "forced rectal searches" as payback for the deaths of Clutts and Hoffman. In 1988, a federal judge ruled that the inmate accounts of staff brutality were simply not credible.

By that point, Silverstein and the bureau were already on the road that would lead to ADX — a place where communication among inmates, and physical contact between inmates and staff, could be strictly controlled and all but eliminated.

If the guard killings in Marion happened at any federal prison today, the perpetrators would almost certainly face the death penalty. Silverstein has suggested more than once that death would have been a more merciful option in his case.

"Even though we may not execute people by the masses, as they do in other countries, our government leaders bury people alive for life in cement tombs," he writes. "It's actually more human to execute someone than it is to torture them, year, after year, after year."


Silverstein's last taste of some kind of freedom came in the fall of 1987. Rioting Cuban prisoners broke into his special cell in the Atlanta federal penitentiary and set him loose. For one surreal week, he was able to roam the yard while the riot leaders dickered with federal negotiators over the release of more than a hundred prison staffers who'd been taken hostage.

Then the Cubans jumped him, shackled him and turned him over to the feds. Surrendering Silverstein had been high on the BOP's list of demands for resolving the situation, right up there with releasing all hostages unharmed.

Contrary to the bureau's expectations, Silverstein didn't butcher any guards during his precious days of liberty. He didn't harm anyone. He suggests the episode shows that he's not the killing machine the BOP says he is, and that he could exist in a less restrictive prison without resorting to violence.

The bureau isn't convinced. He killed Clutts.

Terrible Tommy says he's changed. He claims to have gone 21 years without a disciplinary writeup. Other long-term solitaries go berserk, smearing their cells with feces and "gassing" their captors with shit-piss cocktails. Not him.

"The BOP shrinks chalk it up as me being so isolated I haven't anyone to fight with," he writes, "but they're totally oblivious to all the petty BS that I could go off on if I chose to. I can toss a turd and cup of piss with the best of 'em if I desired. What are they going to do, lock me up?

"But I just have more self-control now, after 25 years of yoga, meditation, studying Buddhism and taking some anger-management courses. All that goes unacknowledged."

McMurray says her brother has learned a great deal about patience and suffering over the years. "He's more like the brother I knew on the outside years ago," she says. "I have spoken with the guards who deal with him every day, and they don't have a bad thing to say about him. It's the ones in administration who are trying to make it as difficult as they can for him.

"But my brother has a spirit that is unbreakable. In Leavenworth, at least he could draw. It's been more of a challenge for him in this situation, but he hasn't let it break his spirit."

The bureau doesn't care about his spiritual progress. He killed Clutts.

Silverstein has told reporters that he wants to apologize to the families of the men he killed, "even though it was in self-defense." He has recanted some oft-quoted lines from his interviews with Earley about "smiling at the thought of killing Clutts" and feeling the hatred grow every time he was denied a phone call or a visit. He says he regrets the grief he's caused and no longer seethes with hatred.

The bureau is unmoved by his repentance. He killed Clutts.

Silverstein has been cut off from the operations of the Aryan Brotherhood for decades. His story is still told among the faithful, in an effort to keep his memory alive among the younger members, but he disputes that the group is a white supremacist organization. His own paintings include an ethnically diverse array of portraits. "I think it's worth noting that Tommy is no longer a racist, if he ever was," says Prison Legal Newseditor Wright.

The bureau could give fuck-all. He killed Clutts.

Twice a year, prison officials hold a brief hearing to review Silverstein's placement in administrative segregation. For many years, the hearings were held in the corridor outside the Silverstein Suite in Leavenworth. Silverstein stopped attending because the result was always the same: no change. At ADX, he's taken to filing grievances, claiming that the move has left him more isolated, with fewer privileges than ever before.

"I am being punished for good conduct under ploy of security reasons," he wrote last year in a formal appeal of his situation. "The goal of these units is clearly to disable prisoners through spiritual, psychological and/or physical breakdown."

In his response, Warden Wiley pointed out that Silverstein is provided with food and medical care, "daily contact with staff members" and access to television, radio and reading materials.

"It's ridiculous to call a nameless guard that shoves a food tray through the hole in the door...a source of meaningful 'human contact,'" Silverstein fired back. "I request placement in general population."

He took his appeal to the regional office, then to headquarters, where it was swiftly denied. "You are serving three consecutive life terms plus 45 years for bank robbery and murder, including the murder of Bureau of Prisons staff," an administrator noted. "You are a member of a disruptive group and an escape risk. Your heinous criminal and institutional behavior warrant a highly individualized and restrictive environment."

Wiley declines to comment on Silverstein's treatment at his prison. Last spring, a group from Human Rights Watch was allowed to tour certain areas of ADX. The group wasn't let in Z-Unit, where Silverstein lives, or anywhere near A-Unit — the "hole," where most disciplinary cases are housed. But they saw enough to realize that the staffers who bring meals "do not converse regularly, if at all, with the inmates." Despite claims that clinical psychologists checked on prisoners every other week, "several inmates said they had not spoken to a psychologist in many months," and such conversations tended to be brief.

The group also reported that many ADX prisoners are trapped in a catch-22 predicament — they've been sent there directly after sentencing but have never been provided any opportunity to "progress" to a less restrictive setting because of the nature of their crime. Every placement review finds that the "reason for placement at ADX has not been sufficiently mitigated."

"No matter how well they behave in prison, they cannot undo the past crimes that landed them in prison, generally, and then ADX, specifically," Human Rights Watch director Jamie Fellner wrote to BOP director Harley Lapin.

Some crimes, it seems, are beyond redemption.

Silverstein got a copy of the do-gooders' report and immediately fired off a letter to the group, suggesting that they come see him in Z-Unit if they want the real story about the government's "failed and draconian penal system."

No one from the group has come to see him yet. Silverstein waits for them in his box within a box. He knows that the bureau just wants to bury him and that he turned the key himself. But he also knows he didn't build that box all on his own.

His earliest possible date of release is eighty-eight years away. He has nothing but time.

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51 comments
dwajkhul
dwajkhul

This guy is classically unlucky as his prison experience charts some of the worst periods and places in the absolutely dreadful history of the U.S. Penal system. The ignorant moral hypocrites that call (the majority) of these inmates scum and uncivilizable etc. are in fact the real scum of our society who do nothing to solve problems but everything to blame others and wash their hands of it. With 700,thousand( about one third) inmates incarcerated for drug offenses, MOSTLY MARIJUANA the attitude of selfish conservative leeches hurling moral indignation about a world they primarily created is laughable, or it would be if it didn't translate to sociopathic political influences like the "tea party" impeding social progress. As usual, real world gains elude the great United States thanks to the idiocy of those that overstate "American Exceptionalism" and refuse to admit fortune plays a hand in all lives.. The founding fathers would hang most for treason.

adam251104
adam251104

I spent 7 years in prison in Australia,from age 19 to 26. Of those 7 years I spent 1 year in isolation for violent crimes i committed in prison. I went to prison for drug-related,non-violent,crimes. Whilst imprisoned I became angry because I often was bullied with violence and intimidation from other inmates,and also from correctional staff. For my first year of imprisonment I weakly took the abuse dished out to me without being able to find the strength required to defend myself. One day I 'snapped' when a large,6 foot 2,115 kilogram,black man attempted to 'stand over' me for a measly newspaper. I attacked him in a fit of rage,except I weighed 70 kilograms and I stand 5 foot 11 inches tall,so he was able to overpower me,however I kept fighting until correctional officers eventually broke up the fight. I found it amusing that the white guys all of a sudden started to treat me with a level of respect and of kindness. I soon learnt that respect in prison is actually fear,not respect in the true sense of the word. To be honest,I disrespected nearly every prisoner I'd met previously,because it was the rare prisoner who showed me kindness prior to my fight with the black guy. Next I planned to stab,and kill,a black prisoner who was planning to assault me with his fellow black mates because he felt that I was racist. He felt he could easily assault me because I was not affiliated with 'the angry gang'(Australias version of 'the aryan brotherhood),nor was I intimidatng in physical stature. I felt myself spinning into a world of anger and hate. A hate directed towards every prisoner who considered themselves 'tough guys',when in reality they were simply oversized schoolyard bullies who only picked on weaker targets. Also,I had been building up resentment for some correctional staff who felt it was their duty to make my prison sentence as uncomfortable as possible. Not all correctional staff and prisoners treated me badly so I only despised the ones who mistreated me. I fashioned a 'marmy' (Australian prison slang for a blade.marmalade jam,blade,knife) from a piece of steel from a bucket and I planned to slip the marmy into the black guys neck. An older,wiser man who was a member of 'the angry gang' told me not to murder him because soon a large amount of heroin would be arriving and he would give me enough heroin to give him a lethal overdose of heroin. Fortunately for the black guy,he must of sensed his days were numbered,because I was being too nice to him,so he slipped the noose,which he achieved by threatening correctional staff. I saw him when I was enroute to the oval for sports a week later and I attacked him with my fists,and I didn't do too badly. Soon after that incident a correctional officer began to take pleasure in making life uncomfortable by adding his own form of extra punishment to my sentence. At this point I'll add that I was not angry with the prison system,nor did I hate the world or have a chip on my shoulder. I fully accepted responsibility for my crimes,and i believed I deserved to be punished and relieved of my freedom for a period of time. 4 years was my original prison sentence. Some months passed,and I became withdrawn,quiet,and I focused on minding my own business. I figured that if I minded my own business,didn't break any of the prisoners codes of conduct,and didn't give correctional staff any hassles then I'd walk out of prison a free man in a few years time. However,I knew that more trouble lay ahead of me,because I hadn't chosen yet to remain non-violent at all costs. Bullies love to be bullies,and they always look for their next victim,and asshole correctional officers love to be asshole correctional officers. I snapped again,and attacked the aforementioned correctional officer who threatened and humiliated me too much for me to be able to peacefully withstand. That assault landed me back in court,charged with assault,for which I was destined to receive extra prison time to be served on top of my original 4 year sentence. In the meantime the prison system decided i should be transferred to the worst,most violent prison in Australia at that time. It was known as 'the killing fields',and prisoners who did time there were considered to have done a 'tour of duty'. Many murders,assaults,and rapes took place there not irregularly. I was 21. I continued to live by my 'minding my own business' way of life,except that didn't work. Many trips to the D.U. (detention unit,or the hole,as Americans call it) didnt dissuade me from acting out violently when I was faced with people being bullies or assholes. I decided to up the ante on the level of violence I was using in an effort to deter people from thinking I would be a fitting target of their constant desire to inflict pain on others. I'd recently sustained quite a beating from a black man who was an amateur kickboxing champion and that beating helped me to favour weapons over fists for any future altercations I was to have with bullies ands assholes. What I mean is,I decided I'd use any weapon available next time someone gave me grief,because I realized I wasn't large physically,nor was I trained in any form of martial-art,so no matter how hard I fought sometimes I stood little chance of coming out of an altercation unharmed. Not long after I turned 22 a black inmate,who hated me because he'd heard about my run-ins with black inmates,chose to attempt to intimidate me. I snapped. This time with serious consequences for him. Instead of fighting him I picked up a large pot full of boiling hot cooking oil and poured it over him,causing 3rd degree burns to %53 of his body,and requiring him to spend 3 months in intensive-care in hospital while undergoing skin-grafts and operations. He had to live in a specially designed body-suit for a year to help him recover from his injuries. I didn't sustain a single scratch,bruise,or injury. Hence,why I didn't use my fists on that occasion. I hoped people would get the fucking message and leave me the fuck alone! Then the prison system decided I was a security risk,and they promptly sent me to the M.S.U. (maximum security unit) where the most incorrigible of prisoners were domiciled. I spent a year in isolation,and in that time I read many books,wrote poetry,did paintings and drawings,did part of a university-entrance program,and learnt about Buddhism. I was very fortunate to live next to Australias most notorious armed-robber,who was a non-violent man with a good heart,and he did everything in his power to teach me that if I kept being violent I would end up killing an inmate and spend the rest of my life in prison,and that that was not a bright idea. He helped to save my life. He helped me to understand that I needed to be smarter,and to get the fuck out of jail,and stay out! Also,a Buddhist nun began regularly visiting me and her kindness and compassion helped me greatly. 2 years later,and a week after my original sentence of 4 years was finished,I was sentenced to serve a further 3 years prison. I did that 3 year's,without creating any further legal problems for myself,and I was rewarded with my freedom. I live an honest,crime and drug-free life. It seems that Tommy Silverstein chose to travel down the path leading to further imprisonment,murder,hell,misery,hate,and ultimately,never-ending imprisonment. He,like some Australian prisoners I met,and some members of the A.B.,end up becoming murderous monsters in prison systems which are designed to punish and destroy a person's soul. It is possible to change ones destiny,and to forge a better brighter future,except a person needs to know when to make the right choices,and I think Mr Silverstein was at the crossroads of his life when he was freed in his early twenties and he didn't take his chance to change his life at that time. He chose crime,and prison. Live by the sword die by the sword. Best wishes to all of you. Peace!

Bob
Bob

Crime and punishment is one thing, the use of the penal system manned by many who are worse than those they oversee, is another.

It's pretty clear Clutts abused his position and in any honest persons view, got what he deserved.

What's happened since has been nothing less than the cowardly abuse of this prisoner by people I personally don't think should be allowed out into our society, yet these are the kind of people we place our trust in to play a part in all prisoners rehabilitation.

Not only were there gang wars within the prisons, there was also the very same kind of war going on between the guards and the prisoners as well.

This kind of mentality, this desire to control and abuse, is the very behaviour that sends most prisoners to jail, yet they are then watched over by exactly the same level of mentality, very little as that is.

There has to be incarceration, but the torture has to stop.

Any troublesome prisoner can be isolated, but to do that to any human being for as long as this has been going on in this case, is beyond humanity, it's downright sick.

Nil_Darps
Nil_Darps

In 1971 a nineteen year old Silverstein entered San Quentin in the middle of what Edward Bunker called a “War Behind Walls” in his 1972 Harpers Magazine article. Here are two excerpts: “...they stabbed every white on the tier, all of whom wore white jumpsuits, for they had just gotten off bus and had no idea they would be attacked for being white. One died, and one vaulted the railing to avoid the stabbing blades broke both his angles on the concrete below….Men without friends, those trying to quietly serve a term and get out, were in the worst predicament. They had no allies. Warriors stayed together, knew many of their opposition, suspected others from hairstyle, mannerism, and association.”So maybe this atmosphere contributed to Silverstein joining the AB?Released four years later he is rearrested shortly thereafter for armed robbery along with his two crime partners, one of the two was his own father. The first murder Silverstein was accused of in prison was denied by him:On appeal a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said it was appalled by the quagmire of conflicting testimony and recanted statements…The judges ordered federal prosecutors to either dismiss the murder charge against Silverstein or conduct a new trail.” There was no retrial.The environment at Marion when Silverstein arrived there:Between January 1980 and October 1983, there were more serious disturbances at Marion than at any other prison, including fourteen escape attempts, ten group uprisings, fifty-eight serious inmate-on-inmate assaults, thirty-three attacks on staff, and nine murders. Second murder trial, in which Silverstein also denied committing:When called to the stand to testify Norman Matthews… was asked whether he could remember November 22, 1981, he replied, "It was the day I killed Chappelle." Did the judge improperly exclude this testimony?The third murder is not denied by Silverstein but it was committed only after Smith had failed in two documented attempts to kill him.

(Smith had been a close friend of Chappelle’s and the leader of their prison gang. “Cadillac” Smith had been moved to a cell next to Silverstein from another institution after Chappelle's death in what appears to be a set up by the authorities involved.) Excerpts from Pete Early’s, book “Hot House”.“I tried to tell Cadillac that I didn’t kill Chappelle, but he didn’t believe me and bragged that he was going to kill me,” Silverstein recalled. “Everyone knew what was going on and no one did anything to keep us apart. The guards wanted one of us to kill the other.”Enter guard Clutts the fourth victim. In an audio recording of an interview conducted by Earley, Silverstein explains his motive:16:25 Silverstein: I think he was just selling me wolf tickets. But he didn't know I was taking him serious. AS MANY KILLINGS THAT I HAVE SEEN WHEN SOMEONE SAYS HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU CAN’T SIT BACK AND SAY AWE IT AIN’T NOTHING AND DO NOTHING. When somebody has gone that far especially when you’re telling him you don't want no trouble why don't you get off my case. You know, I PLEADED WITH THAT GUY…On Saturday morning October 22, 1983, Silverstein eliminated this perceived threat. In his recent apology to the world Silverstein wrote: “There is no justification for what I did.” But there is logic behind his actions, even if it is only understandable by other inmates that have also been trapped like tethered animals in a slaughter house!

bob
bob

It's difficult for me to comprehend the vengeful treatment of people, when the very reason such vengeance is being perpetrated, is allegedly for the very same behaviour of the prisoner?

Who on earth are the real monsters, the criminals or the self righteous so called law abiding hypocrites of our society?

I'm not a criminal, I've never been in prison, but I still feel very uncomfortable knowing such animals are free to roam about in our society.

I'm not talking about the prisoners, I'm talking about the sick people we employ to administer and look after the prisoners.

They're the same mentality as parents who believe they should be able to beat their children. To such people, violence is the only answer they're capable of in dealing with their problems.

It's more than possible to house a prisoner in a secure environment without resorting to the extremes of places described in this story.

One only has to read of the now thousands of wrongful convictions being discovered through the use of DNA, with hundreds of those wrongful convictions involving poor unfortunates on death row, to know our justice system is unsafe, to then accept our incarceration methods are far from acceptable.

I always try to put myself in the position of others before I OK any kind of treatment to another human being. I want prisons to be acceptable enough so as to always bear in mind, many people are truly innocent; it would be bad enough to be wrongfully incarcerated, without the cruelty of weak, sick, pathetic guards, in what can only be described as inhumane conditions.

These are my own personal thoughts and beliefs, I do not belong to any group, I'm just a person with a mind of my own, the courage of my convictions, and a good sense of fairness and decency.

Dave
Dave

Sadly I was forced to serve 7 years in the New York Prison System (Attica, Sing Sing, etc;) and I spent time in SHU (the box) and I know first hand how so called correctional officers abuse their power. It's like these guards don't get a grain of respect as a civilian , have women/wife problems, drinking, you name it and these guards bring their problems into the prison. The guards that run the box are the ones that can't work in the general population because they are too mean and because of their dirty deeds they did to inmates in the box, it's not safe for these guards to work in GP. So, they just keep these guards working the box.

A lot of these guards get off in giving inmates a hard time for no real reason at all, they withhold mail, they give very small portions of food, they turn off your water, they refuse you showers and if you complain they write you up so you end up doing more time in the box.

I was a victim of these type of guards and I was not a long term box inmate. But, all I could think about was getting even with my tormentors. I would envision driving up to the prison in a van and capture each guard that gave me a hard time and lock them up in a barn and treat them exactly they way they treated me...thinking these thoughts was the only way I could get through my box time.

Once I was released from the box, I asked one of the "good" guards what he would do to a man that beat and starved him if he caught him on the street and the guard said "I would kill him." So, if a guard says he would kill a man that beat and starved him, then of course inmates dream of doing the same thing. The only difference is most inmates will never get out of prison, so they get even in the prison walls. I believe that Tommy was given a very hard time by Clutts. Otherwise, Clutts would be alive. Common sense dictates this.

I asked a guard "on the street you would not be doing this to me or anyone else. So, why are you doing it now." Of course I never got an answer, the question did not need an answer.

The bottom line is 99% of prison guards are nothing but punks, they were the ones being picked on in school, etc;, they are not even real men. So, they get a shiny badge and act like they are somebody. The same goes for most cops. They are the true rats and snitches and will lie like a rug to cover their actions.

I feel bad for these inmates that are left at the mercy of small men, petty men...like the ones that work in prisons.

freshdave@verizon.net

Kcfocus1
Kcfocus1

We should be too busy to expend valuable time and resources on someonethat has ceased to be a recognizable human being.

Brenden
Brenden

Everybody wonders how he survived, HE KILLED, like anyone would facing 195 years in prison would if they had to, screw it ya know. If you've never been tortured by a guard or another inmate, or even caged up for any length of time, your opinion on his moral fiber at this point is completely irrelevant to me.

Pamela Devereuxp
Pamela Devereuxp

Tommy Silverstein is a PhD candidate's dream.How does someone psychologically survive the isolation that he has been subjected to?There are so many questions that I would have for him.While my dissertation was not on criminals in isolation,but on serial rapists who evolve to killing their victims,this is,non the less a situation ripe for research.

Acai
Acai

well very interesting posting here. Life is really a great drama.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Am I supposed to feel sorry for this piece of excrement?The only mercy I would show is to the taxpayers - by executing him so we don't have to pay for his cage.

Black Mold
Black Mold

It goes without saying that people of this caliber should be treated exactly as Silverstein has been. His complaints about crappy art supplies fall on deaf ears as someone who probably paid a part of the bill. Think about the torment the families of his victims are subjected to especially corrections officer Merle Clutts who was simply making a living for the family. Isolation may be too good in my opinion.

And to Irene: I can only assume that you have never been dealt a tragic event imposed by another despicable person, if so you may rethink your positions on the death penalty. Eye for an Eye

Black Mold
Black Mold

It goes without saying that people of this caliber should be treated exactly as Silverstein has been. His complaints about crappy art supplies fall on deaf ears as someone who probably paid a part of the bill. Think about the torment the families of his victims are subjected to especially corrections officer Merle Clutts who was simply making a living for the family. Isolation may be too good in my opinion.

And to Irene: I can only assume that you have never been dealt a tragic event imposed by another despicable person, if so you may rethink your positions on the death penalty. Eye for an Eye

maggie
maggie

No where does this man show any remorse....he has wasted all those years feeling sorry for himself.....you do the crime you pay the time.......He could have accomplished so much,Overcome his past way of life, learned a lesson but he chose to sit and stew about the injustices done to him....many probably were.....but that does not give him the right to plan and execute a murder.....He lives by the prison code of conduct the AB code of conduct and never after all this time of showing no change will be fit to be let loose in society.......Keep your sympathy for the innocent...

Alexandra
Alexandra

Jesse Pomeroy was in solitary confinement - literally, 24 hours a day - for 41 years. So Silverstein is a close second to the US-record.

Jack
Jack

No sympathy for any of these psychopathic losers in prison. Behave yourself and you won't wind up behind bars. It's not real hard. To the "wife" of the federal prisoner, your husband is a loser and a piece of human garbage. I hope he rots in jail for all of his days. BTW, what kind of a piece of crap are you that you would marry a sick, twisted, AB member? My guess is that you nothing more than uneducated, beer-swilling, trailer-dwelling, unwashed, white trash.

Eri Cooper
Eri Cooper

that is not very fair. he followed the rules give him a break.

xs
xs

*Just a side note for anyone curiose, AB(ARYAN BROTHERHOOD)are extremely violent and dangerous! Just thought I would clear that up, since "a wife" has been brain washed into thinking otherwise........."Can't we all just get along?":)

xs
xs

"a wife" like Jesse pointed out you have NO F*CKING CLUE!!! Your husband would NEVER "give his shirt of his back" for anyone other than white. I'm white and proud to say AB are just pieces of SH*T, with made up ideals, close minded! Your Father is a discrace to any proud department of corrections if he was EVER involved with such stupid acts as to bet and rile up the inmates.There is a reason why prisoners fight, its because they have no moral or ethical whits about them, they are void of any human ability to socialize and are exactly where they belong! (well not quit, they belong 6 feet under)

jesse
jesse

"a wife" commenter talks like a know-it-all just because her husband is in a federal institution. she doesn't know jack about what the guards do in the places silverstein was in; she's just guessing based on what her hubby has experienced. what gross and unsafe assumptions to think the guards are bored and start trouble with the inmates. as if their jobs aren't stressful enough having to work with people like these guys are, this woman thinks they are bored. just outrageous to hear people make wide generalizations like that.

i certainly don't believe these people should be kept alive. what a waste of money. i don't think anyone who commits crimes like these says "nah, on second thought, i could up in solitary for the rest of my life." just kill them with a bullet to the head and be done with it. it sounds more agonizing to have them alive in solitary, but it costs a fortune to play these mind games.

a wife of fed prisoner
a wife of fed prisoner

My husband is in a federal prison, and was housed in lev. and florence (not adx). Also he is a member of AB. These men are not bad people they are humans!! Have you ever heard the SAYING "CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE?" Well that is true but it ALSO goes for adults. People adapt to their surroundings and that is what these men in prison are doing. People on the outside dont know or realize how these HUMANS are treated by the guards daily day in day out! A person can only take so much degrading and abuse. The guards treat them as animals and like they are pieces of shit! The guards like to start problems between inmates for "something to do" and to give excitment to what they believe is a boaring job! I know this first hand as I am also a daughter of a prison guard (state). I grew up listening to my father telling stories of things the guards did and the problems it caused! THE GUARDS TAKE BETS ON THE OUTCOME RESULTS OF THEIR BULLSHIT THEY STIRED UP!!! Tom was just reacting!! What any human would do!! If the guards dont like the outcome result so be it, BUT they need to remember they caused the reaction, and now Tom is paying for their bullshit! Clutts treated him like shit, abused him, and started issues between races! HE KNEW WHAT THE OUTCOME WOULD BE "DEATH"!! He just didnt think it would be him! The AB are NOT bad men nor are they dangerous! They have beliefs in their gods just like any christian does, but if provoked they will strongly stand up for themselves and what they believe in! My husband is very good dad! He is extremely loving and attentive to our children and myself! And aso to strangers for that matter, he would give the shirt off his back to help someone or give his last dollar to help feed someone. HE IS AB NOW IMAGINE THAT!! They are NOT bad men only have different beliefs than others! But like any man he would defend himself like Tommy did, and probley do the same. Dont judge him unless you've been in his shoes, or know how Clutts treated or abused him! FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS A REACTION! He deserved what he got, and now he can no longer abuse anyone else! Its just sad Tommy has to pay for Clutts games! So before anyone judges him know only a HIGHER POWER IS ABLE TO MAKE JUDGEMENT! iF THE GUARDS treated inmates with the respect that any and all people deserve no matter what they've done things like this wouldnt happen! If you beat a dog day in and day out, and mentaly abuse him isn't it comon knowledge that he will someday turn on you? Everyone has rights!!!!!

Allan
Allan

No sympathy for Silverstein, who seems to turn from a murderer into a whiner. Let's hope other potential criminals read this article. You think that ordinary prisons are a joke? Capital punishment not enough of a deterrent? Well, if perpetual solitary confinement does not scare you and you're still inclined to do the crime, then be prepared to do the time. And stop whining.

ladyhawk
ladyhawk

I think Silverstein is right where he belongs. This kind of life is hell and its what he deserves. How often have we said LOCK THEM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY? This is exactally what is being done!!

Lee
Lee

To be used for body parts, and grease only!

Work From Home
Work From Home

Interesting post and enjoyable also...Looking forward for your next article.

Mrs. Kravitz
Mrs. Kravitz

I'm only sorry for the resources we have to invest to keep him exactly where he needs to be. I wish we could put them toward more life-affirming enterprises, toward education, to bring up children who will contribute to making our world a better place.

This man is obviously intelligent. At many points in his life, even after he was incarcerated, he could have made a choice to become a positive asset to his community. He started life with the same potential as all of us, and many more advantages than some of us, but he never did one single act in his life to benefit anyone except himself. Never a thought for the world around him, whether his immediate family, or friends, or community, or the greater world. He still thinks of nothing and no one but himself, feeling sorry only for himself. He has accomplished nothing, achieved nothing, his legacy will be nothing but wreaking havoc and ruining lives because of personal vendettas. A total waste of a life. He tries to pass himself off as a genial, "hail fellow well met"-type who has forgiven the wrong done against him? Shame on him. He is exactly where he belongs. Somewhere where he can't influence weaker individuals who may believe that such toxic selfishness is acceptable.

used cell phones
used cell phones

The Caged Life-Interesting article.Telling about the one that killed six people and injured a thousand.Nice post..

xc
xc

Irene your comment is ignorant....you really want the people of those prisons walking your street! raping your grandchildren! selling drugs to them, killing your kids! your neighbors! Theses monsters dont deserve yours or anybodies pitty the INSANE thing is that they are allowed to have our money wasted on them to breath another day! BANG! one to the brain pan!

xc
xc

Bullets dont cost that much money just kill him, he has repeatedly taken lives with no remorse.....do away with him!!

Blogger
Blogger

Oh, boo hoo, cry me a river!

Steve Saulka
Steve Saulka

The author doesn't get it.

He weaves a tale, honestly told, of a man who's crimes have led him to isolation notable even among inmates and officials. It becomes clear to any reader that Silverstein has suffered for his crimes and continues to do so every moment of every day. The author repeatedly, sneeringly cites the single-mindedness of BOP officials whose sole response regarding Silverstein's conditions is that Clutts, the murdered guard, is dead.

Thanks goes to the author for a deeply engaging narrative, but he must remember without sarcasm, that Clutts is dead.

Leffe
Leffe

set him freehe have served his time now. he have been in prison very long time now. it is time to give him his life back.if it was in sweden, he would have a better life in prison.in usa they treat the prisoners like shit.

RMR
RMR

How can an inmate not demonstrate "good behavior" if he's locked up in solitary 24 hr/day?

N.
N.

It is not cruel or harsh. The man had a chance and ended up killing and ADDITIONAL 3 people! How is it "good behavior" if he is by himself??? If he was with a black or asian or jewish man, would he act "good" would he just sit quietly and draw with them...NO. If you believe otherwise, you should be in there with him! I work at a correctional facility and the number of "hard to place" administrative segregation inmates is on the rise. There is no way to separate these criminals from people who "just made a bad decision" or from the rest of the world without doing just that. These "people" steal from other inmates, assault, make weapons, or generally just cause themselves to be a disturbance EVERY DAY! Call that good behavior? Should we reward them every time and keep putting them back into general population just to move them within one day of them being back (sometimes it's within hours!)!? Give me a break. They should have just given him the death penalty and saved millions on him and the rest of them in ADX, as well as the building. Guilty means guilty!

Katie
Katie

You have to be kidding me. We're supposed to take pity on this man becasue

"he's only permitted pastels, colored pencils and "cheap-ass paper," he reports; consequently, he hasn't drawn a lick since he's been there."

I'm sorry. Being kept in isolation for decades may be extreme and cruel, but he complains his rights are violated because he's only given pastels and 'cheap ass paper'? All credibility was lost for me at that point.

Linda
Linda

Yes, he did make that wall within a wall all on his own. I worked for the BOP for one year in the late 1970's; It was not a 'vengeful public' that caused his plight; he is a murderer and physchopath who will certainly kill again, and will have plenty of 'excuses' for his decision to kill.

freshdave
freshdave

@Kcfocus1 You know nothing! Let's say you ended up in prison due to an accident manslaughter charge caused by your car and some low rent guard was beating and starving you for no real reason. Would you just eat his crap or would you do something about it? You sound like a jerk!

Ree99
Ree99

Exactly, Tom's story is about 3 decades of torture, he did not go into prison a killer.The point outr government gets away with torturing its own people. We still have a constitution eh?Solitary confinement and isolation is the outrage, thousands suffer Tom has just suffered the logest.And its public hysteria rather than law that drives this madness. We the people pay the extra price for housing inmates in this way.

freshdave
freshdave

@Black Mold You know nothing! Let's say you ended up in prison due to an accident manslaughter charge caused by your car and some low rent guard was beating and starving you for no real reason. Would you just eat his crap or would you do something about it? You sound like a jerk! Black Mold fits you as a username!

freshdave
freshdave

@Jack You know nothing! Let's say you ended up in prison due to an accident manslaughter charge caused by your car and some low rent guard was beating and starving you for no real reason. Would you just eat his crap or would you do something about it? You sound like a jerk!

freshdave
freshdave

@a wife of fed prisoner You are telling stories about your "husband" being a real AB member.If he was really AB, you world NOT be posting on a public internet chat forum telling strangers about your business...making you a target for law enforcement. Alas, putting heat on your hubby as well.   Your IP address will lead the law to your doorstep. So, you and "husband" are clearly not AB. Maybe, he tells you this and that to impress you and your falling for it. You are not in the prison with him. So, he could be a punk, servicing  other inmates needs for all we know. But, he'd never admit that. So, calling himself AB sounds impressive to a novice like you.

However, you are right about guards doing petty things to inmates for no reason.

freshdave
freshdave

@Allan You know nothing! Let's say you ended up in prison due to an accident manslaughter charge caused by your car and some low rent guard was beating and starving you for no real reason. Would you just eat his crap or would you do something about it? You sound like a jerk!

 
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