[Ppnews] Feds to Open New Supermax Prison Cells at “Gitmo North”

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Feb 9 09:54:30 EST 2013

  Feds to Open New Supermax Prison Cells at “Gitmo North”

February 8, 2013 By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway 

Even as it announces a review and reduction of its solitary confinement 
practices, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons confirmed to Solitary Watch 
that a newly acquired prison ln Illinois will hold federal prisoners in 
supermax conditions. “Thomson will be a high security prison holding 
inmates with various security needs, including SMU and ADX type 
inmates,” said BOP spokesperson Chris Burke in an email.

Thomson is the unused prison that the federal government recently bought 
the state of Illinois. ADX, the notorious federal supermax 
Florence, Colorado, holds its prisoners in 23-hour-a-day isolation and 
near-total sensory deprivation. Federal SMUs, or Special Management 
Units, such as those found in Lewisburg Penitentiary 
Pennsylvania, hold their prisoners in round-the-clock lockdown in 
two-person cells. Both are forms of long-term isolated confinement, and 
both have been denounced by human rights and prisoners rights groups as 
an inhumane and ineffective 
<http://www.aclu.org/stop-solitary-resources-advocates>form of 
punishment, sometimes amounting to torture.

The revelation of the BOP’s plans to introduce new supermax cells at 
Thomson comes on the heels of an announcement that the Bureau has agreed 
to undergo a “comprehensive and independent assessment of its use of 
solitary confinement in the nation’s federal prisons.” The assessment, 
to be conducted by the National Institute of Corrections (an agency of 
the BOP), will reportedly be oriented toward reducing the population of 
“segregated” prisoners in the federal system.

In recent months, according to Monday’s announcement 
the BOP has already “reduced its segregated population by nearly 25 
percent. In addition, it has closed two of its Special Management Units, 
a form of segregated housing, due to the reduction in the segregated 
population.” Prior to the reported reduction, the BOP held more than 
11,000 prisoners in some form of isolated confinement. Thomson is built 
to house 1,600.

When asked by Solitary Watch why the BOP needed to build new 
supermax cells despite reducing its segregated population, spokesperson 
Chris Burke replied: “The reduction in our special housing unit 
population does not lessen the need for these beds.  The Bureau of 
Prisons has not constructed any new ADX type units since 1994, when our 
population was only 85,000 (our current population is approximately 

He continued: “‘Special Housing’ refers to units within our prisons 
where inmates are placed on a temporary basis as a result of misconduct 
or as a result of circumstances that warrant their separation from the 
general population.” The distinction suggests that Thomson will be used 
for long-term, sometimes indefinite segregation of the kind common in 
ADX and the SMUs–in other words, for the most extreme forms of isolated 

The lucrative sale of Thomson to the feds was engineered largely 
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The prison, in the northeastern part of 
the state, was built by the state of Illinois but never opened. The 
Obama Administration initially showed interest in Thomson as a 
possible stateside home 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/us/16gitmo.html?_r=0>for Guantanamo 
detainees (and it was quickly dubbed “Gitmo North 

The sale was blocked for years by Congressional Republicans, even 
after the president promised that it would be used only for overflow 
from existing federal prisons, and not for prisoners from Guantanamo. 
But last fall, the administration made an end run around the Republicans 
on the House Appropriations Committee, and bought Thomson by 
presidential directive. “Finally, the Department of Justice this 
afternoon is going to present the $165 million check…for the transfer,” 
said Durbin 
October 2, “At this point, the president had to intervene and do this 
directly. I hope people understand he’s doing it for his state.”

Ironically, Durbin, the Democratic Assistant Majority Leader, is also 
widely credited with drawing attention to the issue of solitary 
confinement and pressing for national reform. In June he chaired the 
first-ever Congressional hearing 
the practice. According to Monday’s press release 
his office: “In his hearing last year, Durbin emphasized the importance 
of reforming the way we treat the incarcerated and the use of solitary 
confinement in prisons and detention centers around the country. 
Following that hearing, Durbin has twice met with Bureau of Prisons 
Director Samuels to push for additional reforms and encourage a 
sufficiently robust assessment of the Bureau’s segregation practices.”

When asked about the fact that Thomson would include 
supermax cells, Durbin spokesperson Max Gleischman responded with the 
following statement: ”As the first member of Congress ever to hold a 
hearing on solitary confinement, Senator Durbin is committed to 
reforming America’s segregation policies and practices.  As a part of 
his efforts, Senator Durbin has met with the federal Bureau of Prisons 
(BOP) and continues to work with its director to reform BOP’s 
segregation policies and practices.  One important step in solitary 
confinement reform, and prison reform generally, is to reduce high rates 
of overcrowding.  The BOP’s acquisition of Thomson prison will greatly 
reduce this overcrowding crisis and Senator Durbin will work with BOP to 
ensure that all of its inmates are treated fairly and humanely.”

Recent federal lawsuits have provided a window on conditions inside 
ADX and the federal SMUs. Suits 
<http://dailyitem.com/0100_news/x1113730620/Federal-lawsuit-blames-Lewisburg-penitentiary-for-two-inmate-deaths> filed 
on behalf of prisoners the all-SMU Lewisburg Penitentiary allege that 
prison officials deliberately pair people up with their enemies and lock 
them down for 23 to 24 hours a day, and that this practice has led to at 
least two deaths. It also claims that prisoners have been strapped to 
their bunks with four-point restraints if they resist cell assignments.

A complaint 
<http://www.supermaxlawsuit.com/Complaint-and-Exhibits-Bacote-v-Federal-Bureau-of-Prisons.pdf> filed 
last June on behalf of prisoners at ADX alleges that the 
supermax’s torturous long-term isolation has produced a variety of 
psychotic and self-destructive behaviors:

    Many prisoners at ADX interminably wail, scream, and bang on the
    walls of their cells. Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards
    of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils, and whatever
    other objects they can obtain. A number swallow razor blades, nail
    clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other
    dangerous objects. Others carry on delusional conversations with
    voices they hear in their heads, oblivious to reality and to the
    danger that such behavior might pose to themselves and anyone who
    interacts with them. Still others spread feces and other human waste
    and body fluids throughout their cells, throw it at the correctional
    staff and otherwise create health hazards at ADX. Suicide attempts
    are common; many have been successful.

A final irony comes in the fact that after a long battle by advocates 
and community members, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s reached the 
controversial decision to close Tamms supermax, which held state 
prisoners in solitary confinement. Tamms was finally shuttered for good 
just before the start of the new year. Now it appears that Illinois has 
lost a state supermax, only to gain a federal one.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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