Sunday, February 5, 2017

“Terrible Tommy” Silverstein

Tommy Silverstein is one of America’s most violent criminals. Jailed for armed robbery in 1977, his sentence was upgraded to life without parole after he murdered two of his fellow inmates. He was placed on “no human contact” status after killing a guard at Marion Prison in 1983. However, the verdict is still out as to whether or not his punishment fits the crime. Some human rights activists claim it breaches the American constitution, which officially outlaws “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Silverstein spent time in solitary in Atlanta before being moved and locked away alone in the bowels of Leavenworth Prison for 18 years. Finally, he was moved to the ADX Florence, a “supermax” prison in Colarado. A former warden of this institution once described it as a “clean version of Hell.” Silverstein is now “entombed” in his cell, behind a sound-proof door for 23 hours a day. He eats alone and gets just one hour of solitary recreation inside a somewhat larger cage. Some say this infernal environment is deliberately designed to drive prisoners mad and render them more compliant. The detrimental psychological effects of solitary confinement have certainly been well documented. Silverstein claims he has experienced depression, hallucinations, disorientation, and memory loss. He says he has gone “beyond the boundaries of what most human beings can psychologically tolerate.”

Silverstein has now been in solitary confinement for more than 30 years. Though this is a record for the federal prison system, amazingly some prisoners in Louisiana were stuck in solitary confinement even longer. Herman Wallace spent 41 years in solitary and died just three days after his release at the age of 71.

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