Why did I read this book?
Well, I can think of a few reasons…. One. I am in the actual prison. HA….All the guards/inmates talk
about this book and the stories in it. My boss in the kitchen knows several of the inmates featured in
this book so I was anxious to read it. There are a few copies running around but they are always being
read…and read slowly. Sosa, one of my favorite people here, and a very connected man at the
Leavenworth Prison camp brought me this copy. It is one of the most popular books in here…which
shows you what people want to read. The funny part about this book…is this prison is called the
HOTHOUSE for its ridiculous summers. Remember there is no AC… So, it gets absolutely miserable here.
“The most dreaded facility in the prison system because of its fierce population. Leavenworth is
governed by ruthless clans competing for dominance.” WOW…If I would have read this prior to coming
here I would have flipped out. This is still a camp but from what I am told it is not like most camps. They
don’t mess around here. There are things that happen here that don’t happen at most camps…There
are gangs, politics, and CO’s that come down from the medium that are intense. That being said it is my
home FOR NOW….So I wanted to read about its history.
The main story I was interested in was about a prisoner here who is super famous for spending 20+
years in the hole (how he didn’t go crazy I will never know). One of the CO’s I do like tells us stories
about him…. His name was Thomas Silverstein (“no human contact,” since 1983). (Dad Comment:
Silverstein died in 2019 in ADX Florence federal penitentiary in Colorado. He was still in solitary
What is this book about?
This book focuses on the history of Leavenworth and the players that run it. Most of the book discusses
some of the more influential inmates and correctional officers. They were Carl Bowles, a predator and
murderer, Dallas Scott famed leader of the Aryan Brotherhood, Eddie George (hero cop), Warden Robert
Mathews (the first black warden at the Leavenworth), and William Post, notorious bank robber (who
started robbing banks at age 8). Post was also known as the Catman, since he fed and took care of the
local cats. The author Earley was the first reporter to gain access to this prison/camp. He was an
interesting guy…he refused protection from the guards because he wanted the inmates to trust him.
Bold move…. It actually worked as eventually the inmates trusted him and gave him crazy insight into
the guard/prisoner relationship.
This book is more a collection of stories. Some of my favorites are as follows:
Thomas Silverstein was as bad as it gets. He had this intense relationship with a guard that he ended up
killing in a barbaric fight…This guard tortured him both mentally and physically. Eventually he had
enough and ended up killing the guard with his bare hands. This killing occurred at USP Marion. The
guard’s death was a big deal throughout the federal prison system and he was put in the hole at USP
Atlanta. Regardless of what prison he was at he was without human contact for over 20 years (He was
not allowed hot water, or any reading materials, the lights were on 24/7) …. He worked out like 8 hours
a day and they had to knock him out to move him anywhere. At Atlanta Cubans incarcerated after the
Mariel boatlift of 1980 rioted in the 1980’s and took over the prison. (Dad Comment: In the Mariel
boatlift over 100,000 Cubans migrated to Florida. By 1987, about 4,000 of these Cubans were
incarcerated for lack of documentation or for committing crimes) 1 During the riot the Cubans released
Silverstein from confinement. The government was so concerned about Silverstein they negotiated a
peaceful end to the riot if the Cubans could find Silverstein and turn him over. The Cubans drugged him
with Antifreeze (not even that stopped him). He was eventually caught by other prisoners and turned
over before he could execute an escape on a Hang Glider he had built.
After 20 years of solitary confinement…Silverstein wrote on the wall the following:
” Sitting silently, thinking and screaming for freedom from this constant insanity and endless solitary
confinement.” He was an evil man but what he went through is a form of torture no person should be
Warden Robert Mathews was the first black warden at Leavenworth. He was not popular with the other
guards. He used walk through the prison and speak with any inmates that had a complaint…and that
infuriated other guards. Some of the policies he instituted at Leavenworth still exist today.
Dallas Scott is one of the famous leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood. The Brotherhood despite having
fewer numbers than other groups was so crazy that for over a decade they ran the yards at prisons. No
other group has murdered as other inmates as the AB. Scott would never admit he was part of the
group…but you couldn’t even joke around with this group for fear of being killed. Not even the guards
messed with them.
How will I apply what I learned from this book?
I was scared to have my dad read this book. Prison is crazy…and this is an accurate portrayal. Being at a
camp is safer than a low…But as far as camps go this is by far one of the most dangerous. I hate to tell
people this but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it this far into my sentence. I wonder if people
believed me when I told them how brutal this facility is. If anything, I have understated how poorly
maintained and run this place is.
That being said I now will wear living in this place as a badge of accomplishment. I will need to face the
humility of going to prison…. but I will always appreciate how this place has permanently changed me.
Everything about this place is hard and I have learned so much.
I found my courage, my work ethic, resharpened my mind, beat the lazy out of me, and tackled my
addiction. I have read almost 100 books (written book reports), aced classes, taught classes, been
appointed a leader (which I know its prison but it is a huge honor….inmates & staff choose me to lead
over 80 inmates in RDAP), worked my ass off in the kitchen and the gym, helped countless people with
everything from law, taxes, divorces, wills, to life after prison, I have helped countless people go home early, and lastly I have time to reflect on the mistakes I have made over the past 20 years and figure out
a game plan to get back to best version of me. I did this all because you have no choice at this place.
Living here is simply hard. Nothing is easy here. I have learned that nothing can be worse than coming
here. I have no choice but to appreciate life to its fullest moving forward. I said this place would not
beat me and it hasn’t.