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Penitentiary in Leavenworth, The hot house and silverstein. The Caged Life Is Thomas Silverstein a prisoner of his own deadly past — or the first in a new wave of locked-down lifers?
By Alan Prendergast published: August 16, Excerpt In the late s, Pete Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, persuaded Bureau of Prison officials to grant him an unprecedented degree of access to inmates and staff at the Leavenworth penitentiary.
Earley was allowed to walk the yard without an escort, to interview inmates without official monitoring, to talk candidly with veteran corrections officers about the dangers and frustrations of their work.
The resulting book, The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, is one of the most vivid works of prison reportage ever published. Granting a journalist unfettered access to him was a public relations blunder the BOP has been unwilling to repeat. The same woman posts regularly on the website, where Silverstein himself duels at length with his detractors.
Some visitors to his site dismiss him as a textbook psychopath.
No American prisoner, not even Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, has ever been condemned to such a walled-off existence for such a long period of time. Even his seventeen-year stretch in Alcatraz allowed for much more daily communication with others than Silverstein has had.
The only people I can think of that have been held in anything remotely like this in modern times are some of the North Korean spies held in South Korea. They are costly on several levels — the operational expense per cell can be double that of a less-secure prison, and the rate of mental illness in solitary confinement far exceeds that of the general prison population — but lockdown prisons are all the rage with a vengeful public.
Increasingly, they are being used not for short-term punishment disciplinary segregation but for long-term confinement of hard-to-manage inmates administrative segregationwhose privileges keep shrinking.
Colorado, for example, no longer allows journalists to interview its supermax inmates except by mail. At present the restrictions must be approved by the U.
But he may be the prototype of what the government has in mind for other infamous prisoners — to bury them in strata of supermax security to the point of oblivion.
Responding in letters to questions about the psychological impact of his isolation, Silverstein struggles to find the right words. Drip, drip, drip, the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, constantly drip away with no end or relief in sight.
When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform. Learn more about Pete. Cummings I read the Hot House and enjoyed it. It is the only book that I have ever read that really tells you what it is like to be inside a maximum security prison — and I should know.
I did time at Leavenworth and met the author when he was there doing research. He got it right.
It is not a place anyone should want to go and fortunately, I have been on the streets since without another arrest. Nice post, was interesting to read. Alan I will be sending this on to Solitarywatch. I think they are a good start in getting the word out.
Unfortunately most of what I write does not reach Tom. I continue to write to educate the public that happens upon the site. Renee I will add this link to my blog.
My only wish is that mainstream media address the issue of supermax prisons ridiculous. The only time I have seen or heard of prisons or prisoners is pertaining to illegal immigrants and accused terrorists, never the 2, of our own incarcerated.Get the latest music news, watch video clips from music shows, events, and exclusive performances from your favorite artists.
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