One thing that Keith Raniere should have learned by now about prison is that things can always get worse.
Having been found guilty on Wednesday – after a mere 5 hours of jury deliberations – on all seven counts he was facing, The Vanguard was probably looking forward to just going back to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) and crying himself to sleep.
Well, that’s not quite how things turned out for the once exalted leader of the NXIVM criminal enterprise.
Instead of being returned to one of the cellblocks where he had been housed during his trial, Raniere was moved to the Suicide Watch Unit at MDC.
It is not known whether he was placed in the Suicide Watch Unit. It could be because he displayed suicidal tendencies when he returned to MDC or it could just be standard MDC protocol for prisoners who have just been convicted of crimes that could result in a lengthy sentence.
Either way, he’ll be there for several days.
Remember how bad the Special Housing Unit (SHU) unit at MDC sounded: e.g., isolated in a cell for 23 hours per day – and limited commissary, food, phone calls, visitors, etc.?
Well, that’s a whole lot better than what The Vanguard has been facing since he returned to MDC.
The Suicide Watch Unit
The Suicide Watch Unit includes a series of isolation cells that are bereft of any amenities.
Approximately 8’ by 10’, each cell contains a metal sleeping platform without any mattress, pillow, sheets or blankets.
It also has an all-in-one sink-toilet unit that has a very limited water supply.
There is no toilet paper in the unit but residents can request a few sheets from the prisoners who have been assigned as Observers (Each occupied cell in the Suicide Watch Unit has its own Observer).
The solid door on each cell is made of reinforced steel – and has a 4” slot that can be opened by an Observer to pass through a tray of food (Those who are housed in the Suicide Watch Unit get the absolute minimum amount of food required by Bureau of Prisons regulations).
There is also a thick window in the door that allows an Observer to see the prisoner at all times.
And the lights in Suicide Watch cells are on 24/7.
Let’s see…is there anything else?
Oh yeah, I almost forgot…
Prisoners who are placed in the Suicide Watch Unit are stripped of all their clothing.
But, of course, leaving a prisoner naked in a cell would be “cruel and unusual punishment”.
So, the BOP gives each prisoner in a Suicide Watch cell a Safety Smock.
Safety Smocks are meant to prevent a prisoner from harming themselves.
Regular prison garb can easily be fashioned to create ropes or nooses.
And zippers can be swallowed by prisoners or used to slash their wrists.
But aside from causing prisoners to look like Ninja Turtles – which apparently does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” – Safety Smocks keep those who are in the Suicide Watch Unit safe and sound.
Each Safety Smock costs about $300 – and weighs about 4.5 pounds.
Safety Smocks are made out of material that is impossible to tear by hand – and they’re too bulky to be fashioned into any type of rope.
Although they are also collarless and sleeveless, they do have a series of one-inch Velcro strips that can be used to close them and create openings for the head and arms.
Raniere in a Safety Smock…
OMG…What a week!