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.