freedom, human rights violations, law, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (80): Solitary Confinement for 28 Years

captured butterflies


Thomas Silverstein, who has been described as America’s “most isolated man,” has been held in an extreme form of solitary confinement under a “no human contact” order for 28 years. Originally imprisoned for armed robbery at the age of 19, Silverstein is serving life without parole for killing two fellow inmates (whom he says were threatening his life) and a prison guard, and has been buried in the depths of the federal prison system since 1983. …

Silverstein [has been held] in a series of what constitute the most secure and isolated housing in the federal prison system: in the notorious Control Unit at Marion, the supermax prototype; at USP Atlanta in a windowless underground “side pocket” cell that measured 6 x 7 feet (“almost exactly the size of a standard king mattress,”); at Leavenworth in an isolated basement cell dubbed the “Silverstein Suite”; on “Range 13″ at ADX Florence, where the only other prisoner was Ramzi Yusef; and finally in ADX’s D-Unit, where he can hear the sounds of other prisoners living in neighboring cells, though he still never sees them.

The following is from Tommy Silverstein’s description of his life at USP Atlanta:

The cell was so small that I could stand in one place and touch both walls simultaneously. The ceiling was so low that I could reach up and touch the hot light fixture.

My bed took up the length of the cell, and there was no other furniture at all … The walls were solid steel and painted all white.

I was permitted to wear underwear, but I was given no other clothing. …

During my first year in the side pocket cell I was completely isolated from the outside world and had no way to occupy my time. I was not allowed to have any social visits, telephone privileges, or reading materials except a bible. I was not allowed to have a television, radio, or tape player. I could speak to no one and their was virtually nothing on which to focus my attention.

I was not only isolated, but also disoriented in the side pocket. This was exacerbated by the fact that I wasn’t allowed to have a wristwatch or clock. In addition, the bright, artificial lights remained on in the cell constantly, increasing my disorientation and making it difficult to sleep. Not only were they constantly illuminated, but those lights buzzed incessantly. The buzzing noise was maddening, as there often were no other sounds at all. This may sound like a small thing, but it was my entire world.

Due to the unchanging bright artificial lights and not having a wristwatch or clock, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. Frequently, I would fall asleep and when I woke up I would not know if I had slept for five minutes or five hours, and would have no idea of what day or time of day it was.

I tried to measure the passing of days by counting food trays. Without being able to keep track of time, though, sometimes I thought the officers had left me and were never coming back. I thought they were gone for days, and I was going to starve. It’s likely they were only gone for a few hours, but I had no way to know. (source)

More on solitary confinement and prison conditions. More absurd human rights violations.


One thought on “The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (80): Solitary Confinement for 28 Years

  1. #8Forever says:

    This issue is about violating human and Constitutional rights, We As Americans have a right to not be tortured. What if it was you or a loved one inside defending their life and wound up isolated? Think of that I stand up for Tom because I refuse to allow our government to violate rights of its people. This right had to be put in the constitution because of inhumane idiots.. Besides are we the same person we were 30 yrs ago? most of us change mature over 3 decades Tom is not as dangerous I suppose if others were in prison they’d just bend over and take it some people fight and then punished for defending themselves. Allow Tom’s rights to be violated we allow our rights to be violated too. the government’s gotten away with this for 3 decades and now we see 25,000 people suffering isolation. Stand up for your rights our rights Tom’s rights this is NOT about what he did This is only about our rights as Americans to not be tortured if we find ourselves in prison.
    Good article but the issue seems to be talked to death and no changes have even remotely been changed.There was a congressional hearing I was hopeful but nothing came of it at all. Colorado the isolation/torture capital of the US attempted to as well to change things they didnt at all. Only thing that changes is more people are put into isolation our country makes a great deal of money on this new form of slavery.
    What do you call making money by keeping people in chains?.. Um Slavery. I’m disgusted with this country.In prison and on supervision there are 8,000,000 people.
    There are laws against everything our rights are violated this is NOT a free country if it were there’d be less in prison less being tortured. How can we look down our noses at the likes of a Sadam when our country is no better?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s