The nation’s newest federal prison, opened in 2001 to relieve overcrowding in the prison system, has become one of the deadliest, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and NPR.  The prison at Thomson, Ill., has recorded five suspected homicides and two alleged suicides since 2019. The Bureau of Prisons’ Special Management Unit used to be housed inside the U.S. penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, but after multiple lawsuits over the high rate of violence among cellmates and the use of harsh restraints by staff it was moved to Thomson.

The violence and abuse at Lewisburg simply relocated to the new facility. There were at least 167 recorded assaults at Thomson between January 2019 and October 2021, according to data provided by the bureau. “It’s beyond egregious,” said Jack Donson, a corrections consultant and former Bureau of Prisons official. “When you look at the policy and goals of the Special Management Unit, it blows my mind that there was [even] one homicide.”  Some inmates reported being shackled in cuffs so tight they left scars, or being “four-pointed” and chained by each limb to a bed for hours, far beyond what happens at other prisons and in violation of bureau policy and federal regulations.