Lewisburg Federal Prison SMU: "If You Did to Your Dog What They Do to Men Here, You Would Be Arrested"
Date:  11-02-2016

Incarcerated men at Lewisburg SMU and FBOP have conflicting views of shackling procedures and policies
Reentry Central Reentry Central received the following email from Christie Thompson. Thompson and Joseph Shapiro wrote the article “28 Days in Chains,” in collaboration with The Marshall Project” and NPR.

“Last March, Joe Shapiro of NPR and I exposed the deadly use of “double-cell” solitary: housing two prisoners in a cell smaller than a parking space for nearly 24 hours a day. As we investigated this practice around the country, one facility stood out: the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where the Bureau of Prisons sends some of its most violent, difficult inmates. We learned about former Lewisburg prisoner Sebastian Richardson, who had refused to live with a violent cellmate whom he heard had assaulted 20 previous “cellies.” According to a lawsuit, guards responded by locking Richardson in hand and ankle cuffs so tight they cut into his skin and kept him from climbing onto the bunks or using the toilet. Richardson says his options were clear: live in a tiny cell with a violent man or remain in restraints. He was shackled for 28 days.

In “28 Days in Chains,” which is also being broadcast as a two-part series on All Things Considered, we show that Richardson’s case is not unique. More than 40 inmates say in interviews, letters, and lawsuits that these restraints are used as punishment at Lewisburg, often for trying to avoid a dangerous cellmate. Some said the tight restraints left them with little choice but to drink from the toilet and defecate on themselves. Many experienced scarring and lasting nerve damage to their hands and feet. “If you did to your dog what they do to men in here,” said one public defender, “you would be arrested.”

Inmates at Lewisburg have a reason to be fearful: we found that the rate of assault there is six times higher than federal prisons overall. We obtained two years of incident reports that show officers responded to roughly 300 fights with cuffs and pepper spray. Prisoners suffered from injuries like broken ribs and stab wounds, and since 2009, at least four have been killed by their cellmates.

The Bureau of Prisons denies that restraints are used as punishment or in a way that injures inmates. But inmates, two government audits, and interviews with Lewisburg staff suggest otherwise. I encourage you all to read our investigation and listen to our two-part broadcast on All Things Considered. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.” Comments can be sent to rbaldwin@themarshallproject.org,

Read 28 Days in Chains here>>