Aryan Brotherhood leader Thomas (Terrible Tom) Silverstein, one of the most infamous men in the American prison system for the past four decades, died of a heart condition behind bars this month in Colorado at 67. Terrible Tom spent 35 straight years in solitary confinement after killing four people as a part of his role in the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.
Federal officials cite Silverstein as the impetus for creating the Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, opened in the 1990s to house the worst of the worst inmates in the prison system. The feds didn’t move Terrible Tom to the Florence faculty until 2005.
Silverstein had surgery on his bad ticker in February and never recovered. He was originally jailed for a string of armed robberies that he pulled off with his dad and first cousin out of California in 1978. Incarcerated in Leavenworth, Kansas, the Irish Silverstein joined the Aryan Brotherhood and quickly ascended through the ranks, building a reputation for being violent and fearless.
Two years into his sentence, he allegedly killed fellow inmate Danny Atwell for refusing to act as a courier for Aryan Brotherhood drug deals. The following year in 1981, Silverstein strangled rival prison gang member Robert Chappelle to death in his cell at a high-security facility in Marion, Illinois. Chappelle was in the D.C. Blacks, an African-American prison gang with power on the East Coast and the Midwest.
Shortly after Chappelle’s slaying, D.C. Blacks boss Raymond (Cadillac Ray) Smith was transferred into the Marion facility and he and Silverstein circled each other for months until, Terrible Tom stabbed Smith to death. Silverstein and Aryan Brotherhood soldier Clayton Fountain plunged makeshift shanks into Smith 67 times and then took his dead body and dragged it around the cell block as a means of showing off their butchery.
In October 1983, Silverstein and Fountain carried out a coordinated double murder of two correctional officers at the Marion prison. Silverstein stabbed Merle Clutts to death and an hour later Fountain shanked Robert Hoffman. Terrible Tom and Clutts had been feuding over Silverstein’s belief that Clutts was harassing him.
Silverstein’s conviction for the Atwell murder would be overturned in 1985. Among the Aryan Brotherhood hierarchy, Terrible Tom is revered and admired, his legacy growing to practically mythic proportions as the decades went by and he remained in isolation.
Even though he was locked up 23 hours a day, Silverstein stayed busy. He blogged about prisoner’s rights and he was working on an autobiography. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons challenging the constitutionality of the conditions in which he was being held that he eventually lost in 2011 when U.S. District Court Judge Phillip Brimmer ruled again him and issued a 43-page opinion.
This article was originally posted here