Some of you may recognize this posting as a revised version of one that appeared much earlier on Tom’s old website. We have edited and updated it; we have also permanently posted it as a page under Tom in his own words on this website; it will be posted here for several weeks so that readers may leave comments, and after that time this post will be removed (but the page left intact).
From: Tom Silverstein
To: The extraordinary guests on this website
My name is Tom Silverstein, A.K.A, Tommy. I’ve been incarcerated since 1975 and am currently the longest held prisoner in total solitary confinement within the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) and perhaps in America and the world.
Not even the notorious “Birdman of Alcatraz” was held in (total solitary confinement) absolute isolation, as I have been subjected to the past 34 years! He was able to see and speak with his neighbours in adjacent cells beside and across from his cell at U.S.P. Leavenworth in building 63 (where I spent over a year in 1979-80), whereas I am deprived of any and all contact with fellow prisoners.
There are several reasons we’ve started this site. We hope to reveal, from a prisoner’s personal perspective, what truly goes on behind prison gates, which is seldom, if ever, presented by the corporate, mainstream media, much less seriously challenged. On the contrary, and sadly, when media do bother to report on U.S. penitentiaries, it’s miserably inadequate and skewed in favour of the prisoncrats. The media’s premise is usually “them against us,” “us” being called the “worst of the worst,” while guards use that ploy to justify their maliciousness
This site also hopes to give the voiceless an opportunity to finally be heard loud and clear. We care more about what’s said, than how people say it!
We welcome one and all to our new site. Regardless of sex, race, religion, class, height, weight, looks, education, citizenship, etc. We respect your input and interest in what we share together, so please don’t hesitate to express yourself whenever the urge strikes. But I must warn you–we believe in free speech. A lot of folks say that, until they hear what they don’t like and suddenly want to ban it. If anyone objects to adult language, being expressed about adult issues, I suggest you stick with the mainstream sources who spoon-feed the public their sterilized, sugar-coated version of events and commentary.
If all goes well, we hope to enlist some investigative reporter(s) to delve into the U.S. penal/injustice system so you all can see what is happening within U.S. penitentiaries.
I’ll include my recent appeals so you can read for yourself my argument for getting out of this damnation and their denials.
We have four levels of appeals: two at the prison, one to the regional director and the last (fourth) to the BOP director in Washington, D.C. We (prisoners) seldom win an appeal. It’s really just a sham they use to assure the public that any grievances we have are reviewed by higher level administrators, which is comparable to cops policing themselves. I however have gone through the process several times in order to obtain irrefutable evidence, so no one would have to just take my word regarding my allegations that prisoners seldom win appeals.
The BOP enjoys giving the illusion that our problems will be solved if we (the prisoners) would only file appeals. Although this process is stress-producing, it is a legal requirement that I exhaust all my administrative remedies (appeals) before I can petition the courts to make the BOP officials do what they’re determined not to do on their own. As you can see if you follow the paper trail on this website, I have made several appeals and even carried my case to federal court. I have never succeeded in getting my solitary confinement status changed to allow me to enter a stepdown program for eventual return to the general population in prison.
After 35 long hard years in some of America’s most cruel and harsh prisons–Soledad, San Quentin, U.S.P. Leavenworth, Atlanta, Marion and Florence–I now know exactly why the Irish dramatist, novelist, poet and wit, Oscar Wilde, said after his imprisonment (1895-97) that if you ever want to see the scum of the earth, go to your local prison and observe the changing of the guards.
I am in the U.S. of A.’s BOP’s most Draconian and repressive SuperMax penitentiary in this country and perhaps the world. It’s replaced the horrific U.S.P. Marion in Illinois. The BOP opened the Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, in1994. The BOP has had three decades to sharpen their instruments of human torture and degradation, in order to make hell a living reality at their new and improved monster of a United States Penitentiary (U.S.P.) in Florence, Colorado!
In the early 1800 and 1900s prisons warehoused prisoners in dirty, stark, solitary confinement cells and a large number of them never left, or left with serious mental disorders.
A delegation from Europe came to America and with the well-known author, Charles Dickens, toured the U.S. prison system. Upon completion of the tour, there was a very negative report. But something Charles Dickens wrote played an integral part in waking up society to the inhumanity of solitary confinement:
“I believe that few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts. There is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers can fathom. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, therefore the more I denounce it as a secret punishment which a slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”
This commentary by Dickens influenced the U.S. Supreme Court to review the use of solitary confinement and it concluded that it indeed caused mental disorders and was therefore a violation of the 8th Amendment (the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment). New guidelines were established nationwide, banning the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days. This saved thousands of prisoners and millions of tax dollars. It also protected society from the release of damaged, often psychotic men and women.
In 1952, an administrator at the New Jersey state prison figured a way around the ban. At the time, he truly believed in what he was doing. He changed the name from “solitary confinement” and renamed it “administrative segregation” and classified it as “treatment.”
Four years later that administrator, Richard R. Korn, realized he was mistaken and that solitary, in whatever disguise, could not be treatment, that it did indeed cause serious psychological damage. He stood up and protested, but the system had once again embraced it as a tool of control, the consequences to the prisoners and society be damned.
An old adage proclaims that a sure sign of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over again, expecting a different result. History and studies clearly show that solitary confinement does more harm than good, that it reveals the idiocy and sadistic mentality of prison administrators who embrace this barbaric, medieval practice, and that it is a crime against humanity. Solitary confinement should be abolished, and I should be returned to the general prison population.
August 30, 2018 at 10:57 am
Rot in hell. Glad to see your already there, sincerely hope you live a long long life and suffer greatly.
September 8, 2018 at 2:10 am
Tommy . we love you, you stay strong ! 95 percent of people will not understand what you are about and what a blessed soul that you are…what a deep and compassionate soul that you are but we ( my soulmate and i recognize it as clear as day !) I keep in touch with Renee all the time and try to make sure she is ok and you’re ok …i know you are going through a hard time right now ( PTSD ) i know as i can feel it…but it will pass….we love you…keep doing Vipassana meditation that is a good one ( where you feel where the energy block is inside yourself and describe it as a witness would…what colour is it ? shape? hard ? soft ? smokey ? and just watch what happens…usually the block will dissipate in about 15 minutes of Vipassana ..might need many sessions…another Buddhist meditation you should do when depressed is Loving Kindness …you visualize the person you love and send love back and forth…feel it grow …( do this with a loved one like Renee ) then move on to a friend ..imagine your friend ( like me ! 🙂 and feel the love grow again and then you go to a neutral person ( mail person ) …send the love…feel it grow..then you do the same with your enemy …that is not easy ..to do so imagine the “enemy ” old on their deathbed begging you for forgiveness/ or as a child/ or as doing something kind for you… i hope this helps !! love Christina and Max !! massive hugs !!!!
November 16, 2018 at 8:21 pm
Great thank’s to you Christina! You are really sending the love to Tommy. Thank you for it. Massive hugs to you and the family. God may bless you!
March 29, 2018 at 3:18 pm
Facts of the case:
Tom’s mother, Virginia Silverstein, served time in prison for robbery as a teenager.
The two crime partners in the robbery that sent Tom to prison were his cousin and his father.
In reference to the first of the four murders he has been accused of, the one in Leavenworth, it has previously been reported that:
“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.”
Reference: U.S. v Silverstein, 737 F. 2d 864 (10th Cir. 1984).
There was no retrial. After Tom’s conviction he had been sent to USP Marion where:
On Page 229 of “The Hot House” author Pete Earley wrote:
“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.”
From Line 46 of his Tom’s declaration:
“There was significant conflict between staff and prisoners at Marion.”
Line 48: “I feared attacks on my life at all times from both prisoners and staff.”
On November 22, 1981, at 7:15 p.m. guards discovered the body of Robert Marvin Chappelle a member of the D.C. Blacks prison gang. “
Silverstein was brought to trial for the murder and pleaded not guilty.
The following information was extracted from the court record:
During the trial, inmate Norman Matthews’s testimony seemed to confirm Silverstein’s innocence.
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.”
Without this confession Silverstein was found guilty.
The third murder is not denied by Silverstein but was only committed after Raymond “Cadillac” Smith the national leader of the D.C. Blacks prison gang had failed in two documented attempts to kill Silverstein.
Smith had been convicted for armed kidnapping, armed robbery, extortion, and assault with a dangerous weapon. Smith was found guilty on all counts, and sentenced to an effective term of 6-18 years.
Fellow prisoner, ex-Black Panther Eddie G. Griffin was in Marion for bank robbery, kidnapping, and commandeering a police squad car- at age 26 at the time.
Griffin said of Cadillac “we both trained for combat in the same prison cage, where he was, known as the ‘Sword of Justice’. Cadillac always laughed in the face of his enemies. And, there were times when his psychotic laughter caused even me to quiver. To hear him laugh was not good, not good at all for somebody. And, on a good day, his signature battle cry would rattle the walls and shake all the prison cages. No wonder, men in prison feared him, both inmate and guard.”
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 Officer Merle Clutts the fourth victim.
Pete Earley wrote in The Hot House:
Page 393: Referring to Clutts and Silverstein, Ralph Seever, a legendary lieutenant… explained, “you never want, the relationship to get personal.” He warned.
Whenever an inmate believes for some reason that the natural conflict between convicts and officers is personal, his ego is at stake, and in a penitentiary, image is a thousand times more important than reality.”
And on the day of his trial Silverstein’s lawyer requested that the judge appoint a psychiatrist. The judge refused. Silverstein had wanted the psychiatrist to testify about the possible effects of Clutts’s harassment on his psyche.
What would have been the verdict if someone like Harvard psychiatrist Stuart Grassian had been allowed to testify about these affects?
Page 233 The Hot House:
“To this day, Silverstein claims that Clutts set out to break him by harassing him in a dozen petty ways that most guards learn early in their careers.”
Officer Clutts also knew there were possible consequences of this harassment for he had learned this lesson the hard way early into his career in an event that foretold his own demise.
On January 26, 1969, Officer Merle E. Clutts found the body of his superior, Senior Officer Vern M. Jarvis, in a utility closet. Jatvis had been stabbed 26 times.
The murder of Jarvis was committed by James K. Marshall also a convicted bank robber with a 25 year sentence. The motive, Officer Jarvis had confiscated Marshall’s candy, fruit and magazines when he placed him in segregation.
In an audio recording of an interview conducted by Earley, Silverstein explains his own motives:
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 Line 58 of his declaration Silverstein wrote “After I killed Smith, I lived in constant fear of reprisals. It was in this frame of mind, and believing I was in a life-threatening situation, that on October 22, 1983, I killed Officer Clutts.”
Silverstein later testified that he had killed Clutts because the guard was planning to let other inmates out of their cells to kill him.
(Unbelievable you say? Then why was Smith, a known close associate of Chappelle’s, moved from another institution and placed near Silverstein’s cell, then allowed to remain there even after making two documented attempts on Silverstein’s life? )
Indeed the lapse in security that allowed all these murders to take place, in what was the most secure facility in the bureau conjures up conspiracy theories.
Prison can be described as a cruel gauntlet lined with rouge guards on one side and predatory inmates on the other with inmates forced to do their time in the restricted space in the middle.
These two opposing forces, sometimes knowingly and at other times unknowingly, collude together to mete out societies punishment. This is the stark reality of prison life.
Like Marshall before him, Silverstein received a life sentence.
This is where the similarities between the two cases end.
On March 29, 1972 Marshall was transferred to Oregon Department of Corrections and was later paroled from his federal sentence in 1982.
However Silverstein’s life sentence came with a “no human contact” order attached to it and with no achievable release date therefore he will die in prison.
Silverstein wrote an apology to the world on Line 59 of his declaration:
“Even writing this declaration, I feel my words of regret are inadequate to explain the remorse I feel….There is no justification for my actions.” (Last part from Line 11)
But there is a certain logic in Silverstein’s actions, even if only understandable by others that have been trapped like tethered animals in a slaughterhouse!
November 16, 2018 at 8:33 pm
It is, to live on .. or to give up (die). Nothing else to choose from!