U.S. Prisoner has Spent 28 Years in Solitary Confinement

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Thomas Silverstein
Thomas Silverstein has spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement, and because of that he’s suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
America’s “most isolated man” has been held in an extreme form of solitary confinement under a “no human contact” order for 28 years.
He was first sent to the California state prison at San Quentin at age 19 for armed robbery. Released on parole, he committed three more armed robberies (with his father and cousin) and, in 1977, he was sentenced to 15 more years. He began his term at San Quentin, but was transferred to the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas. In December 1980, he was convicted of murdering a fellow inmate, although the ruling was later reversed. In the meantime, Silverstein was transferred to the federal prison at Marion, Illinois. There he was convicted of the murders of two prisoners, one of which he admits to.
On October 22, 1983, Silverstein stabbed to death a prison guard, Merle Clutts. He was immediately transferred to a prison in Atlanta and given “no human-contact status.” His cell was so small he could stand in one place and touch both walls simultaneously. His bed took up the length of the cell, and he had no other furniture. He was permitted to wear underwear, but was given no other clothing.
Silverstein’s only contact with other prisoners occurred in 1987 when rioting prisoners released him from his cell for seven days. Returned to Leavenworth, he was isolated in “a post-apocalyptic state.” After 18 years, he was transferred to the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, where he has remained to this day.
In his lawsuit against the federal government, Silverstein contends that his decades of isolation in a small concrete cell violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, as well as its guarantee of due process.
Silverstein, who is now 59 years old, has requested permission to be considered for a lower security classification within the maximum security system. His lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons is scheduled to be heard in a jury trial on January 23, 2012.
-David Wallechinsky
Fortresses of Solitude (Part 1) (by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, Solitary Watch)
Silverstein v. Federal Bureau of Prisons (U.S. District Court for Colorado) (pdf)
The Caged Life (by Alan Prendergast, Denver Westword News)


letsilversteinbfree 12 years ago
the man went in for bs robbery and was forced by a system that is totally corrupt with dirty guards and government to do what the system designed. he was put in a position of kill or be killed. freakin guards on the take and set him up. how can a system do this to its own citizens. freakin put our own americans in complete isolation for years!!!! wtf have we become. where is the rehabilitation???? the system is fucked and our government doesnt care because all they want to do is fill their pockets.
GDub 13 years ago
mr silverstein is definitely not a "victim". he has shown a life-long pattern of predatory behavior. the bop has a responsibility to ensure the safety of other prisoners (not to mention it's staff.) when mr silverstein has been allowed contact with others, he has committed murder, he took the life of another human being. he murdered officer clutts for no other reason than to improve his status among the aryan brotherhood, one of the most violent and viscous prison gangs in the country. mr silverstein is not a victim, the people he murdered are the victims. if people feel he should be granted more contact, i invite them to work in the institution with this killer. i guarantee that if these people had to work even one night in with mr silverstein they would change their opinion. there's a good reason that the bop has taken the unprecedented steps that it has in confining this predator.
thetruth 13 years ago
what about the people he admitted to killing? sure, no contact is harsh, however, when he is killing people he comes into contact with what is the system supposed to do? give him lessons on not killing?
Andrew 13 years ago
hes clearly a victim of circumstances thats learned to adapt. you built this killer. deal

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