Prison Stories

Special Management Units

Special Management Units

ADX Florence the Super Max federal prison in Florence, Colorado holds the distinction as the worst prison in the world. A certifiable living hell for the prisoners housed there that makes them slowly deteriorate and loose touch with their sanity. But the Bureau of Prisons has come up with and an ADX junior. They call it a special management unit and two infamous East Coast penitentiaries, USP Lewisberg in Pennsylvania and USP Atlanta in George, have been converted into what they call SMU’s.

The SMU program is where they send all the gang bangers, trouble makers and dudes who have too much influence. If they can’t send them to ADX they send them to one of the SMU’s. If the ADX is for the worst of the worst in federal prison the SMU’s might be the breeding ground for those destined to graduate to the ADX. Numerous gang bangers like Crips, Bloods, Nortenos, Surenos, Aztecas, Texas Syndicate members, Piza’s, Nazi Low Riders, Black Guerrilla Family members, Dirty White Boys and Aryan Brotherhood members are sent to SMU’s and made to house with their enemies. The BOP calls it socializing them. Here is an excerpt taken right from the handbook they gives new arrivals.

The SMU is a multi-level program whose mission is to teach self-discipline, pro-social values, and the ability to successfully coexist with members of other geographical, cultural, and religious backgrounds. USP Lewisburg offers Levels I and II of the program, and most inmates transfer to another facility for Levels III and IV.  Ordinarily this program will be completed in 18 – 24 months.

Successful completion requires strict adherence to the rules and regulations of the unit.  In addition, completion of the program requires your active participation in self study, individual, and group activities geared toward the development of behavior and values that will allow for successful reintegration into a general population. Advancement through the levels of this program is dependent on observed behavior and program participation.

As you progress to the higher levels of the program, you will earn additional privileges. Lack of effort, rule and disciplinary infractions, or a poor attitude may result in delaying completion of the program, to include repeating levels.  Progress in the program is evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team ordinarily consisting of Executive, Unit, Correctional, Psychology, and Educational staff.

Prison officials claim that cohabitation forces the inmates to learn how to coexist with other people. Great idea, in theory. But in reality the close quarters breed tension and violence. SMU inmates spend 23 hours per day confined to cells they share with a roommate.The cells are so small that both men cannot walk around at the same time. Lewisburg inmates soon learn that forced proximity to others can, in its way, be just as torturous as extended solitary confinement. To get the real deal we got with a dude who is in the SMU at USP Atlanta and who has been fighting to get out. He was actually there when Big Meech from the BMF was housed there before he got sent to ADX.

DSC_0875Why do you think they are using places like this to hold people?

Personally I think it’s used to pilfer funds from the federal government under a “budget.” We see none of the rehabilitation methods that the funds are allotted for. Generally this place only allows beef to stir and new enemies to be made. Of course these are my opinionated views. Special management unit (SMU) was initially designed for inmates who participated in or had leadership roles in geographical groups/gang activity and present unique security and management concerns. The FBOP designates inmates to SMU where greater management of their interaction is necessary to ensure the safety, security or orderly operation of the prison. Allegedly, it’s supposed to be non-punitive, but 23/1 under these conditions is definitely punishment.

How long is the normal duration people stay there?

Inmates are expected to complete the four level SMU program in 15-24 months. These 18-24 months are to be completed infraction free; if not with every incident report inmates are either recycled 30 days or completely, which is most commonly known as Phase 1 – Day 1. With that being said for some 18-24 months turn into 4-5 years unfortunately.

What is the process to get of there?

(A) Level 1 – (4 months) interaction between inmates is minimal. Inmates are usually restricted to their assigned cells for 23 hours a day. We are allowed personal property, commissary, telephone, etc., limited.

(B) Level – 2 (6-8 months) the same as Level 1 except the addition of two more 15 minute calls… four per month.

(C) Level 3 – (6-8 months) interaction begins in an open, but supervised settings with individuals from various groups. Privileges are increased for those who maintain appropriate conduct.
(D) Level 4 – (2-4 months) at this level inmates must be able to demonstrate their sustained ability to coexist and interact with other individuals and groups in the unit. Inmates are considered for the same privileges as general population inmates. These last 2-4 months are mainly for transition back into population. Level progression is predominantly based on behavior and one’s ability to coexist with various individuals, groups or gangs.

Give us a normal day or your routine?

Lights come on at about 5:30 a.m. Subsequently, breakfast is served. Cell inspection is done daily. One must pass to be approved for recreation or allowed to shower. Showers are three times per week. Recreation is one hour five time a week. We are handcuffed and then put in an 8 x 11 steel cage for recreation. Upon completion of recreation, showers are administered. Shortly after lunch is served about 9:30 – 10 a.m. From there I exercise about two hours and anticipate mail call. Dinner is served around 4 p.m. We literally don’t leave our cells for anything, 23 and 1…spending such a prodigious amount of time in cramped quarters usually ends in altercations with roommates. Therefore the key to successfully completing the program and reintegrating into general population is finding a compatible cell mate. So needless to say, most of my time is spent reading, writing, cultivating social and family ties, mediating and striving to become a better man.

camp-6-cell-060606jpg-4ce4bbb9172ea3e9What is the climate and mindset in the SMU program?

Honestly, violence is prevalent in this place. The staff condone it and have even gone to the extent of setting hits up on inmates against rival gang members. I’ve watched many inmates get beaten or stabbed to within an inch of their lives. It’s easy to get pulled into the negativity but in order for one to prevail above these circumstances staying focus on the objective must be a priority.

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