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The SMU

THE SMU


I have constantly heard my fellow prisoners call the SMU program (pronounced “Smoo” like a cow with a lisp) the “Smooth program.” Why? I have no idea. Probably because it’s the closest pronunciation to an everyday vocabulary word and they just go with that.


The SMU program is a close custody, restricted special housing program which is designed to separate, act as a deterrent, and correct those who have serious institutional incident report histories. Basically, if you are a maniac running around stabbing people and punching staff members in the face when they get cute, fresh, or funny—you’re going to the SMU.


The SMU used to be housed at USP Lewisburg. There was a four level program which would supposedly prepare those designated to the SMU program for eventual reintegration into a regular institution. The program consisted of maintaining clear conduct and had workbooks that focused on changing the hearts and minds of the participants so that they would be less likely to stab everyone who made eye contact with them. At the SMU, you were in your cell ninety-nine percent of the time. It was basically a long term SHU with harsher regulations (and with staff who would not hesitate to bust your fucking head open at the slightest provocation) in order to bend the recalcitrant prisoner into something that could actually be managed. You’d hear horror stories from anyone who had ended up there. Everyone I’ve met that has been to the SMU has said that they never want to go back. So in its own iron fisted way, it was effective.


In late 2018, the SMU began its move from USP Lewisburg to Administrative United States Penitentiary (AUSP) Thompson in Illinois. Thompson is much larger than Lewisburg and capable of housing many, many more SMU prisoners. Besides just the physical move, there have been some changes to the overall program, making it less of a horror movie and more flexible for dealing with the specific eccentricities and differences of each prisoner. There are now three levels to the program instead of four, and the time to complete the program has gone from 24 months to 12, assuming good behavior. A higher emphasis is being placed upon the prisoner’s mental health history and treatment. There is a transitory unit at Thompson to act as a staging area for the prisoner’s who have completed the program but are still waiting to be funneled back into the system proper.


It is now easier to get placed in the SMU. Violence is not a precursor. Now, all you need are successive “serious” incident reports and have a referral from your parent institution to be considered. Technically, you could get a few 100 series dirty piss shots and end up there. I would imagine that since Thompson is so much bigger than Lewisburg that the standards for qualifications to drop as they have the excess room to house more unwilling participants.


As of the writing of this section, there are 846 prisoners who are housed in the SMU.

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