How Should We House Murderers In Prison – Solitary Confinement? Colorado Public Radio Questions Me About ‘No Human Contact.”

Available on Amazon

(5-24-23) What should society do with men who commit multiple murders in prisons and have no qualms about killing again?

Andrea Dukakis, a producer/reporter/host for Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio, raised this question during a phenomenal interview with me about my new book, NO HUMAN CONTACT: Solitary Confinement, Maximum Security, and Two Inmates Who Changed The System.

My book describes the troubled lives of Thomas Silverstein and Clayton Fountain who murdered other inmates in federal prisons before each killed a correctional officer on the same day in the same cellblock. Because there was no federal death penalty, both were held under total isolation – cut off from society – for decades.

Colorado is home to the federal Bureau Of Prison’s “Super Max” penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, where Thomas Silverstein was being housed before his dead in 2019.

During our conversation, Reporter Dukakis asked if long-term solitary confinement is harmful (it is) and if there a better alternative. Our interview begins with her questioning me about the horrific childhoods of both Silverstein and Fountain.

You have to visit the Colorado radio website to listen to our conversation. 

New book paints a picture of two men who spent decades in solitary confinement

The United States Penitentiary's maximum security prison in Florence. Oct. 27, 2021.Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The federal supermax facility in Florence, Colorado was built in response to two men, Tommy Silverstein and Clayton Fountain. Each murdered a prison guard — and people who were also incarcerated. Both were considered too dangerous to be housed in the general prison population.

The book “No Human Contact” examines what to do with people in prison who are deemed dangerous, and whether isolation is cruel and unusual punishment. Author Pete Earley profiles two men who spent years in solitary confinement with virtually no direct contact with the outside world. Their crimes were by all accounts heinous: Each man killed a prison guard and other men incarcerated with them. The book traces their childhoods, their crimes and their punishment and explains why their actions led to the construction of the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.





CIT Training For First Responders Comes Under Fire: Is That Criticism Fair?

(5-22-23) I recently was sent this story about Crisis Intervention Team training, which aired a while ago on National Public Radio.

Because I support CIT training and know of incidents where CIT trained officers have saved lives, I was a bit concerned about the headline.

The problem is in implementation, choosing empathic officers and community support services. Ron Bruno, who I served with on a federal panel that advises Congress, makes key points defending CIT.

Still, every time a parent or other loved one calls the police, there is a risk. Here in Fairfax County, Va., CIT trained officers shot and killed Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, after his parents sought help. It is difficult looking at the body camera images to understand why. Meanwhile, incidents where CIT officers helped someone in crisis go unreported.

What is the status of CIT in your community? What are your thoughts about ways to improve CIT and police interactions with individuals with mental illnesses? Please share your thoughts on my facebook page.

Mental Health And Police Violence: How Crisis Intervention Teams Are Failing

All Things Considered  National Public Radio

Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement’s role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.

Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. Injuries, too, are common although they are less carefully tracked. There’s anecdotal evidence that botched encounters between police and people in a mental crisis are up during the pandemic.

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Would Jordan Neely Be Alive If New York City Had A Care Court? “Coercive Compassion.”

(5-9-23) Would Jordan Neely, a homeless, African American New Yorker with a history of mental illness, who was strangled to death in a subway car by a Marine Corps veteran, be alive today if New York had a so-called Care Court?

Care Courts are California’s latest attempt to reduce homeless, especially among those with mental illnesses, such as Neely. The destitute young street entertainer had been arrested more than 40 times, according to news reports, and was well-known to social workers. CNN reported that he was “on a list of homeless people identified as having dire needs.”

California officials describe Care Courts as “coercive compassion” an initiative that will involuntarily place people into treatment – if they meet certain criteria – rather than waiting for them to pose a danger to themselves or others.

Care Courts will allow a relative, mental health clinician, police officer and others to file a petition in the new civil court system to have the person, willing or not, enter the program. A clinician then will have two weeks to decide if the person, who is afforded legal counsel, qualifies for the program, which will accept those with mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis. Care Court will also be an option if a person is involved in a criminal or civil court case and is determined to be unfit to stand trial.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness and others including: California’s Big City Mayors, California Professional Firefighters, the California Medical Association, and the California Hospital Association support creation of Care Courts.

Obviously, creating a Care Court has outraged disability and civil rights groups, including the state’s Protection and Advocacy organization, while it is being embraced by many parents and others who are frustrated by a neglectful system that allows their loved ones to resist treatment and “die with their rights on.”

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Blood On The Razor Wire: An Excellent Prison Memoir By A Convict Who Beat The Odds

This post is about a prison memoir, BLOOD ON THE RAZOR WIRE, not mental illness.

(5-8-23) Chad Marks turned his life around by sheer determination and guts.

Raised by a single mother on welfare in a poor Rochester neighborhood, he started selling cocaine when he was thirteen years old. Three years later, he was selling crack cocaine and when he was 24 years-old, he was sentenced to a 40-year federal mandatory minimum sentence – ten years for a crack cocaine drug conspiracy, five years for possessing a weapon, and another 25 years for possession of a .22 rifle.

Society was happy to rid itself of him. And it did.

Marks was sent to “Big Sandy,” a federal maximum security prison located in a remote area of Kentucky. It was one of the most violent penitentiaries operated by the federal government, with stabbings, beatings and murders.

Chad Marks was not prepared for what he was being thrown into as a young man facing four decades behind bars.

“For me there was a choice I had to make,” he later would write in an article for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “I could give up, and in doing so take a road of negativity, or I could choose a much different path. I saw then that all paths in life, for good or bad, begin with one small step. For so long in my life, I chose the wrong path. At that very moment, I knew I had to change my direction, because when we choose our path we choose our destination.”

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Tireless Advocate Norm Ornstein Tells MSNBC Audience How To Fix Our Broken Mental Health Care System

(5-4-23) Norm Ornstein, who lost his son to mental illness, did a fabulous job this morning on the MSNBC show, Morning Joe, calling for better mental health care in our nation. A tireless advocate for those living with a serious mental illnesses, Ornstein echoed many of the same points that he and fellow advocate, Miami Dade Judge Steven Leifman, made in an article entitled: Locking People Up Is No Was To Treat Mental Illness, published this month in The Atlantic Magazine.

I’m printing that article because it is excellent and because Morning Joe did not feature Ornstein’s remarks on its MSNBC page, instead showing a clip of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, junior Democratic U.S. Senator from Georgia, discussing mental health. This editing is unfortunate because of the powerful points that Ornstein made.

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Blaming Parents: 2 Prominent Psychiatrists Mistreated By Their Own Profession When Helping Daughter

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

(5-3-23) Dr. Mark R. Munetz is a familiar and well-respected name in mental illness/health circles. He is co-author of the ground breaking Sequential Intercept Model that identifies key points in the criminal justice system when individuals with serious mental illnesses can be shifted  into treatment and rehabilitation. He and his wife, Lois S. Freedman are both prominent psychiatrists.

So why was it so difficult for this esteemed couple to get help when their adopted daughter, who had multiple psychiatric diagnoses, developed skin lesions?

In a Psychiatric Services article, the couple writes that they encountered what many of us parents have been faced with when seeking help. We or our loved ones get blamed and are marginalized.

“Our daughter has been traumatized repeatedly by both her chronic diseases and the medical community. Her initial physicians jumped to erroneous conclusions. Her personality, although engaging to most who know her, makes some uncomfortable. Her history of alcoholism (in remission now for 14 years) and multiple psychiatric diagnoses led physicians to overattribute her symptoms to mental illness. Perhaps what contributed the most to the discomfort of physicians encountering our daughter was their uncertainty about what had caused her symptoms. This discomfort led them to blame the patient for her condition. As parents, we were viewed as annoyances at best and enablers of our daughter’s pathology at worst. Insecure physicians did not appreciate being challenged by parents who were their colleagues. It was easier to dismiss us as part of a family illness.


Imagine for a moment if you don’t have financial resources. If you are not a psychiatrist or well educated. Perhaps you speak another language or are an ethic minority. What chance do you have?

The fact that Drs. Munetz and Freedman were treated so shabbily by their own profession should be a wake up call for those who practice medicine, especially their colleagues in psychiatry.

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