The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) has closed the Special Management Unit at United States Penitentiary Thomson in a first step to reduce the use of solitary confinement practices.
A yearlong investigation of Thomson included consistent reports of abuse from over 100 individuals imprisoned there, and interviews with more than 50 of those people found:
- Excessive periods of isolation;
- Dangerous and prolonged restraint;
- Unnecessary and excessive force by staff;
- Retaliation and threats of retaliation by staff including physical force, abuse of the discipline system, and labelling incarcerated individuals as sex offenders who have never been convicted of a sex-based offense in a court of law;
- A failure of internal systems to detect and prevent abuse..
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Latham & Watkins LLP, Levy Firestone Muse LLP, and Uptown People’s Law Center represent more than 100 individuals regarding their treatment at USP Thomson. In the course of their representation, these organizations investigated reports of abuse by staff in the Special Management Unit (SMU) and Reintegration Unit (RU) at the Bureau of Prisons United States Penitentiary Thomson (USP Thomson). Interviews of more than 50 individuals imprisoned there revealed stories of shocking abuse. Moreover, there was a remarkable consistency in the reports from persons who did not know each other and had no means to coordinate their stories. During the course of the investigation, the worst of these abuses was reported to the Bureau of Prisons and to the Department of Justice.
Last week, the FBP announced that it recently identified significant concerns with respect to institutional culture and compliance with BOP policies at USP Thomson, that these issues are having a detrimental impact on facility operations, and that there is a need for immediate corrective measures. The culture and lack of compliance with BOP policies has clearly had devastating consequences for the individuals imprisoned there, who lived in fear and suffered physical and emotional harm.
“Closing the Special Management Unit at Thomson and ending these heinous human rights violations was long overdue. However, we are concerned about where prisoners will be taken next. While this unit at Thomson was particularly egregious, there is no good solitary unit, because solitary confinement is torture, and causes long-term negative effects on people’s mental health. We call on President Biden and Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Ms. Peters to end solitary confinement across the nation,” said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center.