By Christie Thompson and Joseph Shapiro
This article was originally published by the Marshall Project in cooperation with NPR on May 31, 2022. It is reprinted here with permission.
Fatal beatings. A “torture room.” Pairs of men held around the clock in tiny cells, tempers rising. “They’re literally afraid for ...
by Christie Thompson and Joseph Shapiro, The Marshall Project
On February 3, 2011, corrections officers at Lewisburg federal penitentiary in rural Pennsylvania arrived outside Sebastian Richardson’s cell door. With them was a man looking agitated and rocking back and forth. He stared down at Richardson, who at 4 feet, 11 inches was nicknamed “Bam Bam.”
The man, officers told Richardson, was his new cellmate. The two would spend nearly 24 hours a day celled together in a concrete room smaller than a parking space.
Richardson, 51, didn’t know his new cellmate’s name, only that he also went by a nickname: “The Prophet.” He had a habit of screaming songs or shouting the spelling of words for hours, as though competing in his own private spelling bee. There were also rumors that he had assaulted more than 20 previous “cellies.”
“He’s Lewisburg’s weapon,” said former Lewisburg prisoner Deangelo Moore. “If he like you, he like you. But if he don’t, he’s your worst enemy.”
“Every cellie he get he always end up fighting,” said Lenelle Gray, another former Lewisburg prisoner. “He was just crazy.”
So when officers told Richardson to cuff up and step aside to make room for his new ...