Federal Prisoner 57005-177
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Raniere on Suicide Watch

One thing that Keith Raniere should have learned by now about prison is that things can always get worse.

MK10ART portrait of Keith Raniere in prison.

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.

Metropolitan Detention Center

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
Safety Smocks are meant to prevent a prisoner from harming themselves.


One-Size-Fits-All Safety Smock

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.

Ninja Turtles

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

Safety Smock

OMG…What a week!

About the author


News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.


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  • I hope that thing gets washed regularly. Mitey terrible if it doesn’t

  • No toilet paper?

    That’s a lie cuz it’s a violation of civil rights.

    A man has the civil right to wipe his ass after her shits.

    It’s written in the Constitution.

    Go back to chasing ambulances.

  • This isn’t when inmates kill themselves.

    It’s afterwards. Suicide watch is when they plan the deed.

    Every inmate who stands to receive a long sentence goes on suicide watch. Very few actually go on to off themselves, but the ones who do go through changes at this point. They disconnect from friends and family, conversations with lawyers become more grave. Their behavior around other inmates becomes more reckless, they take chance they know can get themselves killed. Most often, they would rather have someone else do it then figure it out themselves.

    Watch for stories about behavioral changes with Raniere after he gets out of SHU. They’re not hard to spot, you will hear about a fight or SHU detention over a bizarre infraction. That’s a sign they are developing the courage to go through with their plan.

    I never thought Raniere would actually live to judgement. He must have seriously believed his lawyers were going to steer the trial his way. The fact this didn’t work out must be crushing him every moment of every day, he probably can’t think of anything else. It’s likely he’s talking to himself in his cell and has given up on basic hygiene. Expect him to look very different at sentencing, everything I’ve heard about the man suggests he’s fundamentally averse to the opinions of others. Actually receiving a long sentence will be the worst thing he’s ever experienced and likely result in a massive breakdown.

    The other thing – Raniere might be looking to shave time off his sentence by cooperating with the government on charges related to Claire. Inmates on suicide watch tend to become desperate to make a deal especially when there’s no direct consequences for snitching. Watch for a delay in sentencing, this would likely represent investigators following up on information they receive from Raniere.

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