Join Riverfront Times Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Did a Federal Prison Official Lie About Solitary Confinement? We Asked Jeff Smith

Posted By on Fri, Aug 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Jeff Smith weighed in on the BOP's denial of solitary confinement - IMAGE VIA
  • Image via
  • Jeff Smith weighed in on the BOP's denial of solitary confinement

On Tuesday, Democratic senators (including Missouri's own Claire McCaskill) grilled the head of the federal Bureau of Prisons over its budget and practices and, in the process, heard him make an objectionable claim.

"We do not practice solitary confinement," said BOP director Charles Samuels at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs.

"That's astonishing to me," replied Senator Corey Booker, D-NJ, according to The Hill. "All of the evidence is that it is a practice at the federal level."

The denial also caught the attention of a former federal inmate from Missouri who once served as a state senator in St. Louis: Jeff Smith.

Smith, you may recall, pleaded guilty in 2009 to obstruction of justice after he lied to the FBI about his involvement with a campaign mailer that didn't follow election regulations. He is now an associate professor of politics and advocacy at The New School.

What seemed to rankle Smith was Samuel's assertion that the BOP only puts prisoners in solitary under special circumstances. Tweeting the story about the hearing, Smith called that assertion a "bald-faced lie":

Riverfront Times then emailed Smith to clarify whether he himself ever spent time in solitary.

He responded:

I wasn't confined in solitary myself, thankfully. But I saw the SHU [segregated housing unit] and was friendly with several prisoners who had been in it, and saw others cycle in or out of it for a variety of offenses, some rather innocuous - including a guy who put his hand in a girl's pants during a visit. To say, as the BOP official does, that "barring evidence that an inmate poses a threat to others or a medical evaluation calling for solitary confinement, we do not under any circumstances, nor have we ever had the practice of putting an individual in a cell alone" is simply not true. In fact, the SHU was also used for people caught with certain types of non-dangerous contraband, and [correction officers] threatened inmates with the SHU constantly. So Samuels is either lying or unaware of what's happening on the ground in federal prisons.

It just so happens that solitary confinement has been on Smith's mind as of late: He's currently working on a book, one section of which will deal with the topic. Hopefully he'll send us an advance copy so we can review it in this space.

Tags: ,

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 9, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation