A Troubled Federal Prison Unit Gets New Life In A Different State

August 21, 2018 | Victoria Law | The Appeal

Instead of changing its conditions and practices, The Bureau of Prisons is simply moving a problem-plagued federal prison unit in Pennsylvania to Illinois.

On Feb. 3, 2011, staff at Pennsylvania federal prison USP Lewisburg’s Special Management Unit told Sebastian Richardson to “cuff up” and accept a new cellmate. Richardson was terrified; the man with whom he was about to share the cell, known as “The Prophet,” had attacked over 20 cellmates. The Prophet had just been released from hard restraints, a combination of metal handcuffs, ankle shackles, and a chain that encircled his chest. He was also, according to Richardson, ”rocking back and forth in agitation as he waited outside” the cell door.


Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary 'worst inmates' to transfer out later this year

June 11, 2018 | John Beauge | PennLive

LEWISBURG - The mission of the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary is about to change after nearly a decade of housing the worst of the worst inmates who have created problems in other prisons.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has announced it is transferring the special management unit from Lewisburg to a high-security prison in Thomson, Ill. The first transfers are expected to take place late this year.

Special management inmates are locked in their cells 23 hours a day, eat their meals there and are escorted to recreation pens.

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Lawyer will be working with Lewisburg inmates

December 6, 2017 | Marcia Moore | The Daily Item

A staff attorney is once again working at the Lewisburg Prison Project more than nine years after the position was eliminated.

James Davy stepped into the role Nov. 20 working with the nonprofit inmate advocacy group that serves in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project.

“There are a lot of claims that exist that I’ll get to assist,” he said, including two class-action lawsuits against the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg alleging mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners and excessive use of restraints in the Special Management Unit (SMU) of the prison.

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Lawsuit: Mentally ill inmates are being mistreated

June 13, 2017 | Marcia Moore | The Daily Item

Seriously mentally ill inmates at the U.S. penitentiary at Lewisburg are being given word games and Sudoku puzzles instead of treatment and medication, according to a class action lawsuit filed against the federal bureau of prisons.

The suit, filed by the DC Prisoner’s Project of the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, claims prisoners received minimal interaction with counselors, often just a minute or two each week and through cell doors.

Men with lifetime histories of schizophrenia, paranoia, bipolar disorder, depression and other serious mental conditions often receive no treatments at all and are held in cells, often with another inmate, for 23 hours or more a day. Instead of treatment, the suit alleges, these inmates receive Sudoku puzzles, word games and coloring pages.

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Federal penitentiary inmates down by 500

February 4, 2017 | Marcia Moore | The Daily Item

Due to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' plans to limit the time inmates can spend in the SMU program, the Lewisburg Penitentiary now houses about 500 fewer inmates. Dave Sprout, a paralegal with the Lewisburg Prison Project, believes that this change will lower the number of violent incidents that take place due to the amount of cell space this change frees up. 

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Prison Project points to abuse at USP

December 1, 2016 | Matt Farrand | Standard-Journal

Allegations of abuse at USP Lewisburg are still a common occurrence since the new security protocols were instilled in 2009.  The prison uses hard restraints that cut off the inmates' circulation as well as other unnecessary punishments.  David Sprout, a paralegal and member of the Lewisburg Prison Project, believes that some of the actions of the penitentiary can be seen as torture.

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NPR report thrusts Lewisburg Penitentiary into national conversation on prison reform

November 1, 2016 | Marcia Moore | The Daily Item

A joint National Public Radio and Marshall Project report on alleged abuse of inmates inside the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg is prompting members of an interfaith organization against torture to call on the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to investigate.

“We are gravely concerned about this,” said the Rev. Laura Markle Downton, director of U.S. prisons policy and program at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

The NPR/Marshall Project report, “Inside Lewisburg Prison: A choice between a violent cellmate or shackles” includes claims The Daily Item has written about for years regarding inmate allegations of mistreatment at the federal prison since it was converted in 2009 into a Special Management Unit (SMU).

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Inside Lewisburg Prison: A Choice Between A Violent Cellmate Or Shackles

October 26, 2016 | Josh Shapiro | National Public Radio: All Things Considered

Listen to the NPR radio news report here →