Thomas Silverstein – Official Website

Solitary Survivor

Some Responses from Tom

The following is a paraphrased account of Thomas Silverstein’s guestbook post on January 14th, 2011, as a response to a viewer on his site.

Silverstein was first moved to a “Protective Custody” (PC) unit but was kept isolated from the others for the first few months. “D” unit was later reclassified as a “General Population” (GP) unit and a few high profile inmates joined him but most of the PC inmates remained.

He maintains that this is not safe for the PC population and the GP population is very uncomfortable with their presence there.

After years of isolation it took Silverstein a period of time to figure out how ADX operated.

When he realized who he was housed with he came to the conclusion that he was being set up in three ways.

First they seek to undermine his reputation by housing him with known informants (a practice that he has never heard of before). This makes other inmates question why he is being held there.

Secondly by surrounding him with informants the authorities hope to find a reason that they can point to keep him isolated. It doesn’t matter if the allegation is true or not, and he points out that these informants have every reason to lie in order to gain favors from staff but have nothing else to lose.

Thirdly by placing severely mentally ill inmates in adjacent cells they deprive him of rest. The howling and banging is continual and he points out that the lack of sleep hinders not only his but everyone’s ability to complete the step down program’s requirements. It also makes maintaining congenial interactions with staff difficult. Also it hinders their ability to complete the required educational classes.

He believes that there are two main reasons for mixing the mentally ill in with GP inmates trying to complete the step down program. First staff hopes it will either drive him mad, hinder his ability to complete the program, or cause him to threaten the source of his discomfort any of which would give staff an excuse to keep him isolated. Or he believes the staff may not want to admit that they are illegally housing the mentally ill.

He points out how informants manipulate the system to gain favors and how they attempt to involve him in their petty conflicts which incite.

He comments about the illogical shuffling of inmates between cells in a humorous account reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First? skit. One of the cells has a plastic cover over the TV.
Unit “D” has been nicknamed Bombers row and this one cell is designed with two different inmates in mind. It seems the staff fears one of the two could build a bomb out of the electronics inside the TV but Tom asks “with what other ingredients?” Even the evil genius Ted Kaczynski aka the Unabomber needed other ingredients. Right?

He signs off by pointing out that during the four hours it took him to write this all down the mentally ill inmate housed next to him, and connected by an air vent that allows the sound to freely enter his room, had never stopped ranting and raving in his multiple personalities. He points out that this is Cruel and Unusual Punishment and that it should not be allowed in any country. And I agree!

A paraphrased account of Tom Silverstein’s last post to a viewer of his guestbook
August 17, 2010

About Mail and the Law Library:

Thomas Silverstein states his mail is censored by SIS unlike some of the other inmates around him. This procedure leads to bureaucratic delays of his incoming and outgoing correspondence.
In addition he claims that there are frequent intentional or unintentional delays in his mails scheduled pickup and delivery. These delays can lead to significant legal problems when his mandated filing deadlines are not met.

Tom also claims that a legal document from his defense team which was marked to be opened only in front of him had arrived to him already opened by the SIS staff. And if such legal correspondence does miss its deadline the judge is more often inclined to believe the CO’s denial of interference then his claim of wrong doing.

Thomas Silverstein’s ability to mount a robust legal defense to end his isolation is hindered by, poor education, difficulty in accessing legal materials, and his unfamiliarity with computers. He gives this graphic account of how these factors all combine to hinder not only his defense but those of most inmates.

Thomas points out that when he was at in Leavenworth he often overheard the BOP’s tour guide, say that the inmates were allowed to use the Law library at the end of the tier, an empty room, with a new computer that the staff had just installed a few months before. However Silverstein claims that he put in 15 to 20 requests to use the facility to no avail.

Also Thomas Silverstein pointed to the fact that many prisoners are too illiterate to even read the directions for the computer. Silverstein says during the approximately 7 successful trips that he finally did make to the room, that he found the case materials too long and the legal language too difficult to interpret. Claiming “It all sounds Greek to me, including the instructions given on the prison TV station.”

With no actual law books and lacking any computer skills Silverstein was at a loss. He notes that,” Before, we could check out 3 law books at a time and return them within 24 hours. Now we’re only allowed 2 hours on the computer, (which only deals with legal cases and BOP policy, with no outside contacts. And anyone who has read legal cases, know how extensive some are, and 2 hrs is hardly enough time, especially for someone like me who reads at a snail’s pace. But to hear them tell it, we now have state of the art legal access.

By the way, no one comes around to show/help us either. I’m the type of guy who learns best when shown, so I asked the education guy a couple of weeks ago if he knows how to work the new computers and he said yes, so I told him I have a question to ask him, he got all hostile and snapped ‘Its not my job you were all given instructions!, and stormed off.”

Concerning Visits:
Thomas Silverstein says, “mail meddling is part of their desire to cut me off from the outside world—once they alienate you, they try to break your hopes, then your resistance. I didn’t get any visits for about 10 years, because of the draconian policy that says we’re not allowed visits from anyone we didn’t know prior to prison.”

After 35 years of incarceration at a location far from his prior home and family Silverstein receives very few visits from his ever shrinking pool of relatives and old friends. Referring to this dilemma Silverstein asks “How many folks still know people from that long ago?” Only once in the last 27 years has Silverstein ever been allowed to add one “very special person” to this list.
Tom goes on to state “The BOP policy statement claims to encourage visits to maintain family and social ties, but it’s only a ploy to fool the public when in reality they do just the opposite.”
Tom gives this example as evidence; “Once my baby sister came to see me all the way from California, and the gate guards wouldn’t let her in. Their excuse was that the paperwork hadn’t been processed. This is not that unusual since most of the guards are too lazy to do their job. So instead of the guard saying that he would call my counselor or whoever, (they know who to call) he told her to leave. When she attempted to explain, that she had already been approved and had come a long way etc, he threatened to have her forcibly removed. It was winter and snowing! Luckily she knows how they operate, since she has visited me in just about all the pens that I’ve been in. So she called my counselor, and got in a few hours later, but the delay had cut our visit short! I cannot recall if it was this same time or another but when they let her in, they cancelled our visit 15 minutes later! The reason, every few months they have a power check and turn all the lights off for about 10– 5 minutes, but even then the emergency lights are always on.

We visited in a glass booth, over bugged phones, with 2 surveillance cameras and guards parked outside, staring at us ominously through a window, as if waiting for one wrong move to cancel our visit! Only a sadist could do what these folks do on a daily basis. My conscience would haunt me, if I did that to someone’s sister, no matter how I felt about her brother. It’s more macabre than that however. Chasing away a sweet woman who came 1000 miles to see her brother, after a number of years of not seeing each other, tearful, and cold, is something that he probably bragged about to his cronies who share his sense of cruelty, especially knowing that it was my sister and me that suffered his wrath.

Messing with our mail, calls, visits, property, and recreation time is the norm. Although our recreation time is very limited the unit staff cannot always manage even to allow us this pitiful amount of time without making up some lame excuse to cancel it so they can sit in their office drinking coffee and shooting the shit. It has been better lately, but when I first got here (D unit) I was lucky to make it out of my cell for indoor or outdoor recreation, once or twice a week. You have to be heartless to work in prison.”

About transporting prisoners:

Silverstein says, “First of all, the forced rectal exams are rape to us! I don’t know many heterosexual men willing to handle another grown man’s cock, balls and anus so there has to be some closet homosexual voyeurism underfoot, disguised as a security procedure or, it’s just meant as pure humiliation.”
About the mentally ill:

“I’ve slept in some of the worst pens in America has to offer but I’ve never seen so many guys gone stir crazy as I’ve witnessed here at ADX! It’s daunting to see people lose their mind and knowing it’s inevitable. Everything they do here is designed to literally break us! All their security mumbo jumbo is whitewash used to conceal their real covert mission.”

And the just plain ill:

Speaking of the ADX staff Silverstein says; “I believe it’s their duty to walk each tier daily and address any issues that we have. But they just walk right by and you have to scream, because otherwise they act like they can’t hear you. If you do get them to stop, they often roll their eyes, wearing a pinched lip smirk, causing me to wish I wouldn’t have called them. So sometimes I just say never mind because I can tell that they’ll just blow me off anyway, so why bother.
The Prison Authorities mostly male nurses are the worst, and they’re the ones who are supposed to help us the most! And to add insult to injury, they charge us $2 just to talk to them so unless it’s serious, most guys just can’t afford to get their ailments checked.”

Is all this about justice or is this just revenge? How will the other prisoners that are finally released, and many will be, look upon all of us that allowed this abuse?