The Hot House and Silverstein

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“The Hot House” Inmate Profile’s Title Page:
America’s Most Dangerous Criminal:
A Life of 24-Hour Total Isolation
Robert A. Seng
Kutztown University

Abstract
Thomas Silverstein resorted to criminal activity at a young age and found prison at the young age of 19. Silverstein’s criminal acts did not cease once in prison, and in fact seemed to worsen, which we see when he murders multiple times while in prison. Presently, Thomas Silverstein is an inmate kept in total isolation at Leavenworth since 1983. He has no human contact whatsoever other than the guard who delivers his food every day. He is driven to insanity by one faint light bulb that glows overhead and makes an annoying humming noise. Silverstein suffers from SHU syndrome, discussed within. The prison brings tours through where Silverstein is kept on a regular basis and labels him as a crazy lunatic. The textbook offers much evidence in support of what Silverstein is suffering, along with much information on SHU syndrome and the Aryan Brotherhood gang in which Silverstein had contact with while in prison.

Keywords: Silverstein, Terrible Tommy, Leavenworth Prison, Hot House, Solitary, Isolation, SHU Syndrome

“The Hot House” Inmate Profile
America’s Most Dangerous Criminal:
A Life of 24-Hour Total Isolation
Most of us know little about life inside the walls of prison and most of the knowledge we have comes from fictional accounts – the movies, television, and books. Nevertheless, in Pete Earley’s “Hot House,” we are taken inside the walls of one of United States’ maximum-security federal prison. The picture painted throughout Earley’s book is nothing short of a chilling one.

Thomas Silverstein, more commonly known by the name “Terrible Tommy,” is often described by the authorities and correctional officers at Leavenworth as one of America’s most dangerous prisoners. Silverstein was originally incarcerated at the young age of 19. Silverstein’s childhood was far from happy and stable. His mother divorced his birth father while Tom was still in her womb and went on to divorce another husband while Tom was still very young. Because of his timid and shy nature, Silverstein was always bullied as a child. His mother taught him to be a fighter by threatening him with lashings from her belt if he did not hit back. Because of sheer fear instilled by his mother, Silverstein got into fights and scuffles quite regularly inside school walls. No longer did Tommy fear bullies – in fact, he ended up going down the same “big-shot” path. By age 14, he was skipping class, running away late at night just to get his hands on some crack and get high. He even took it as far as getting into scuffles with police officers. At the young age of 19 he took his little minuscule “property crimes” and “misdemeanors” to a completely new level when he committed his first armed robbery. While incarcerated, Silverstein did nothing in an attempt to help his self, but instead, began associating with a top-notch prison gang. After 4 years, the Federal Prison System chose to parole Tommy – but this did not last long at all for him. Within a very short time, he recidivated and was picked up on several more armed robbery charges. Chapter 11 of the textbook discusses how likely parolees are to recede to old criminal behaviors after release. In their study, Patrick Langan and David Levin discovered “high rates of rearrests, reconviction, and reincarceration among former prisoners.” Through national data collected they were able to determine that ‘nearly 30 percent of offenders were rearrested, 11 percent reconvicted, and 5 percent sent back to prison – just within 6 months.’ (DeLisi and Conis 342). This rate of recidivism increases dramatically the longer that parolees are released. While incarcerated the second time around, Terrible Tommy made it a whole year without any major shake-ups or problems, but after being coped up for some times, Tommy’s violent tendencies began to overtake...
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