THOMSON — Three congressional representatives from Illinois are calling for an immediate investigation into the deaths of seven inmates at Thomson federal prison since March 2020 and accusations of “gross abuse” by its staff.
In a letter to the Justice Department’s Inspector General on Wednesday, lawmakers cite a new report from National Public Radio and the Marshall Project that, if accurate, “describes conduct that would almost certainly violate many policies of the BOP (Bureau of Prisons), as well as infringing on the civil rights of those detained by the BOP and possibly violating federal criminal laws”, and “raises serious and troubling allegations regarding the conduct of USP Thomson personnel”, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Sens. Cheri Bustos and Tammy Duckworth, all Democrats, said in a press release Thursday.
The most serious allegations in the report include staff deliberately stoking tensions between cellmates, encouraging assaults on sex offenders and informants, and leaving men chained to a bed for hours in their own urine and feces without food or water, the statement said.
The report, released on Tuesday, also says staff laughed at the expense of a Jewish man they were guarding as he lay dying following an assault that occurred after he was placed in a recreational cage with supremacists known whites, according to the statement.
They also call for an investigation into “any other allegations of abusive or unsafe conditions at USP Thomson that arise during your investigation.” In particular, we ask that your investigation understand the role staffing shortages may have played in the conditions in which the alleged deaths and abuses occurred.
Also on Thursday, Durbin said the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is chairman, would hold a hearing into the continued overuse of solitary confinement and restricted accommodations at federal correctional facilities, including Thomson. About 7.8% of federal inmates are housed in some form of restricted housing, the statement said.
Deaths of inmates
The most recent death of an inmate at Carroll County Jail was March 15. No cause of death was released at the time.
Of the other six inmates, at least four were apparently killed by other inmates, a fifth died from injuries from an unspecified source and a sixth was deemed suicidal, his family said.
Two inmates are charged in one of the deaths.
Information on the causes of death of the other inmates was not available at the time of going to press.
“Generally, for safety, security and privacy reasons, this office does not share details regarding an inmate’s cause of death,” said Nicole Vido, public information officer at Thomson Prison. , in response to an email sent in March asking for more details.
“The official cause of death is determined by the medical examiner and not by the Bureau of Prisons.”
Carroll County Jail now has 929 inmates, down about 430 from March 2020.
According to the Department of Justice:
• James Everett, 35, was found unresponsive in an unspecified area of the prison and pronounced dead at approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 15. Everett had been at Thomson since September 16, 2020, serving a 15-year sentence handed down in the Western District. of Missouri for threatening a federal officer, forcibly resisting a federal officer, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. No information on a cause of death has been released.
• Matthew Phillips, 31, of Texas, was found unconscious with life-threatening head injuries on the morning of March 2, 2020. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead 3 days later. He was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months for distributing heroin and money laundering, and had been with Thomson since September 2019.
In December, two inmates believed to be white supremacists were charged with murder and hate crimes in the death of Phillips, who was Jewish, the Justice Department said in a news release.
Brandon C. Simonson, 37, and Kristopher S. Martin, 37, members of the Valhalla Bound Skinheads, beat Phillips to death because of his religion, according to the indictment by a federal grand jury in Rockford.
The two are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, second degree murder and a hate crime, all of which can lead to life in prison, and the resulting assault is bodily harm. serious, which is punishable by 10 years.
• Edsel Aaron Badoni, 37, of Blue Gap, Arizona, died at approximately 2:30 p.m. on November 27, 2020 after a fight with another inmate. He was sentenced on February 13, 2018, to 13 years and 10 months for assault with a deadly weapon, assault causing grievous bodily harm, and discharging a firearm during a violent crime.
It was sent to Thomson on November 25, 2019.
• A week later, on December 3, 2020, Boyd Weekley, 49, of South Dakota, was found unconscious at 2:30 p.m., also after a fight with another inmate. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead.
Weekley was serving a life sentence for a conviction in the Western District of Michigan for kidnapping and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
He had been at Thomson since February 25, 2020.
• Two weeks later, on December 18, 2020, Patrick Bacon, 36, was found unconscious in his cell around midnight. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
His death was ruled a suicide, his mother, Shelley Bacon, told Sauk Valley Media.
Bacon was serving a 10-year sentence imposed in California for assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to cause bodily harm, aiding and abetting and assault causing grievous bodily harm.
According to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals records, Bacon was jailed in federal prison in Victorville, California when he stabbed another inmate with a metal rod, fracturing the man’s sinus cavity and causing him stab wounds to the head and chest. Bacon was appealing the conviction because he was not allowed to use an insanity defense.
He had been detained at Thomson since October 14, 2020.
• On February 28, 2021, Shay Paniry, 41, an Israeli mobster from Studio City, California, was found in an unspecified area with life-threatening injuries.
Paniry, who arrived at the prison on October 14, 2020, was sentenced to 17 years and 6 months for conspiracy to launder money, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and obstructing commerce.
• On December 15, 2021, around 10:30 p.m., Bobby Everson, 36, was found unconscious following a fight. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A second inmate, who has not been named, was medically examined but was not injured, the prison said in a news release. No staff or other inmates were injured.
Everson was serving a 13-year, 2-month sentence for conspiracy to engage in racketeering, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and felon in possession of a firearm, charged in the Northern District of New York.
He had been with Thomson since July 1, 2021.
The full text of the letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice
Dear Inspector General Horowitz:
We respectfully request that your office immediately initiate an investigation into the allegations included in a disturbing report released by NPR and the Marshall Project. regarding the deaths of seven incarcerated men and serious abuse by staff at the United States Penitentiary Thomson (USP Thomson) in Illinois.
Five of the deaths were reportedly the result of homicides committed by other Special Management Unit (SMU) residents; the other two were suicides. The most serious allegations in the article include:
• Staff deliberately stoked tensions between cellmates and intentionally paired up men they knew would attack each other;
• Staff encourage assaults on sex offenders and informants and falsely tell residents that a particular man is a sex offender, resulting in repeated physical and sexual assaults on him;
• The abusive shackling leaving scars known as the ‘Thomson tattoo’, sometimes in a room known as a ‘dungeon’ or ‘torture room’, where men remained chained to a bed for hours in their own urine and feces without food or water;
• Continued abusive behavior towards inmates after the transfer from USP to USP Thomson;
• Punishment (often by chaining) of men who refused to be housed with cellmates they thought would kill them;
• The highest rate of pepper spray use in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP); and
• Staff laughed and joked at the expense of a Jewish man they were guarding as he lay dying in a hospital following an assault that occurred after staff placed him in a recreational cage with supremacists known whites.
If these reports are found to be accurate, they describe conduct that would almost certainly violate many BOP policies, as well as infringe the civil rights of BOP detainees and possibly violate federal criminal laws.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is responsible for protecting the integrity of components of the Department of Justice, including the BOP, as well as the health and safety of those detained by the BOP. The NPR and Project Marshall report raises serious and disturbing allegations regarding the conduct of USP Thomson personnel.
As such, it is imperative that you investigate the allegations detailed in the NPR and Marshall Project report, as well as any other allegations of abusive or unsafe conditions at USP Thomson that arise during your investigation. In particular, we ask that your investigation understand the role staffing shortages may have played in the conditions in which the alleged deaths and abuses occurred. We have long fought to resolve the staffing crisis at USP Thomson and across the BOP, repeatedly warning that failure to do so could spell disaster. We are deeply troubled that these warnings seem to have come true.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to your prompt response.