[Ppnews] Judge Rules 28 Years in Solitary Confinement Not Extreme

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 6 17:25:55 EDT 2011

Judge Rules 28 Years in Solitary Confinement Not "Extreme," Dismisses 
Silverstein Case

Ridgeway and Jean Casella


Thomas Silverstein, plaintiff in a potentially groundbreaking case 
challenging his more than 28 years of extreme solitary confinement 
under a "no human contact" order, has had his case dismissed by a 
Federal District Court judge in Denver.

Silverstein's student attorney's at the University of Denver law 
school had argued that their client's decades of utter isolation in 
the depths of the federal prison system constitute cruel and unusual 
punishment, and also violate his right to due process. But Judge 
Philip Brimmer, in the ruling issued on Monday, declared that 
Silverstein's conditions of confinement at the U.S. Penitentiary 
Administrative Maximum, or ADX, aren't "atypically extreme."

Reporting in Denver's 
Alan Prendergast notes that Silverstein's "journey through the 
federal prison system has been anything but typical":

[Silverstein] was convicted of four murders while in prison; one was 
later overturned. He's now serving three consecutiive life sentences 
plus 45 years. The last killing, the 1983 slaying of a federal guard 
in the most secure unit of what was then the highest-security federal 
pen in the entire system, put him on a "no human contact" status that 
lasted for decades. For close to seventeen years he was housed in a 
specially designed, Hannibal-Lecter-like cell in the basement of 
Leavenworth where the lights were on 24 hours a day. In 2005 he was 
moved to a highly isolated range at ADX, as first reported in my 
feature "<http://www.westword.com/2007-08-16/news/the-caged-life/>The 
Caged Life"...

Since Silverstein first filed his lawsuit in 2007, with assistance 
lawyers at the University of Denver, he's been moved from his tomb in 
Range 13 to D Unit, which is considered "general population" at ADX. 
Inmates are still in solitary confinement and have meals in their 
cell, but they also have access to indoor and outdoor recreation and 
can shout to each other. That lessening in the general degree of 
Silverstein's isolation seems to have been one factor in Brimmer's 
decision to dismiss the former bank robber's claims of enduring 
extreme deprivation and lack of any social contact.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials maintain that Silverstein's 
placement in isolation is necessary because of his own extreme 
behavior -- "plaintiff's disciplinary record, in addition to the 
aforementioned murders, shows assaults of three staff members, a 
threat to a staff member, an attempt to escape by posing as a United 
States Marshal, and the discovery of weapons, handcuff keys, and lock 
picks in plaintiff's rectum," Brimmer notes.

But Silverstein hasn't been cited for a disciplinary infraction since 
1988, and even the BOP's psychologists have rated the 59-year-old 
prisoner as having a "low" risk of violence for years.

On his official <http://www.tommysilverstein.bravehost.com/>website, 
maintained by outside supporters -- incarcerated since the 1970s, he 
hasn't had much opportunity for surfing the Internet -- Silverstein 
reports that he's still being moved frequently from one cell to 
another to prevent any kind of ongoing communication with other 
prisoners.  "ALL they care about (obviously) is maintaining my 
ISOLATION, by any convoluted means necessary," he writes.

Judge Philip Bimmer had set a court date for Silverstein's trial in 
January, but has now ruled in favor of a motion by the federal Bureau 
of Prisons to dismiss the case. Silverstein's lawyers, under the 
leadership of Laura Rovner at the University of Denver law school's 
Civil Right Clinic, are consulting with their client and have not yet 
commented on the decision or their future plans. One possible next 
step would be an appeal of the judge's decision to the Tenth Circuit 
Court of Appeals.

For more on Silverstein's conditions of confinement, see 
Most Isolated Federal Prisoner Describes 10,220 Days in Extreme 
Solitary Confinement. For details on the Silverstein case, see 
of Solitude.
Ridgeway and Jean Casella | October 6, 2011 at 11:24 am | Tags: 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?tag=thomas-silverstein>Thomas Silverstein 
| Categories: <http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=9641017>civil 
liberties/civil rights, <http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=180>Colorado, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=177013>due process, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=2907560>Eighth Amendment, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=6364725>federal prisons, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=2720>human rights, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=2213213>life without parole, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=23067269>older prisoners, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=1742633>physical effects, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=1848010>psychological effects, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=423488>solitary confinement, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=14633274>supermax prisons, 
<http://solitarywatch.com/?cat=39433>torture | URL: 

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