Thomas Edward Silverstein died on May 11, 2019, after being incarcerated continuously since 1977. The last 36 years he spent continuously in solitary confinement. This may possibly be the record in the United States for solitary confinement.
He originally went to prison for armed robbery, serving at USP Leavenworth. While there, he murdered another inmate who refused to serve as a prison “mule” for transferring heroin. He got life without parole and was transferred to USP Marion, which was then a high security facility. He murdered another inmate and eventually murdered a prison guard and was transferred back to Leavenworth. Following the murder of the prison guard, Silverstein went into solitary confinement wherever he went starting in 1986 and remained in that status the rest of his life. His murder of the prison guard was perhaps the most direct inspiration and impetus for the design and construction of ADX Florence, which opened in 1994, though Silverstein himself did not end up there until 2005, remaining there until his death.
He was one hell of a bad-ass dude, no doubt about that. An individual so irredeemable and so dangerous, that it lead to the construction of a whole new type of facility. I seriously doubt anybody is going to miss him.
A necessary evil, as demonstrated by the life of Thomas Silverstein. Some people are just so inherently dangerous, there is simply no safe way to incarcerate them short of the extreme.
I do believe that the use of ADX Florence and solitary confinement should be limited if possible. Some individuals have been sent for three year “pacification” periods to ADX Florence and have come back as manageable in regular high security. I don’t think a person should be locked up that way for life if it is not necessary.
Thomas Silverstein was the rare example where it was necessary.