Clayton Anthony Fountain (1955 -- 2004) was born into a military family at Fort Benning, GA. As a young man he himself entered the armed services. While stationed in the Philippines in the 1970’s Clayton murdered his immediate military superior, for which he was incarcerated and consigned to the Federal Penitentiary at Marion, IL. While at Marion, Clayton murdered three prisoners and one guard. These acts merited Clayton's designation as “Most Dangerous Prisoner” in the federal system.
In 1983 Clayton was moved to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. There, he was confined in a “Special Housing Unit” (SHU) where he lived for over twenty years in virtual isolation from everyone except for specially authorized personnel. In 2004, Fountain died of a heart attack.
See also: Aryan Brotherhood; AB members & associates; Aryan Brotherhood of Texas; AB Trial 2006; Dallas Scott; Thomas Silverstein
Why the Death Penalty
Officer Hoffman was murdered by prisoner Clay Fountain. Fountain managed to slip off his handcuffs and stab one of the three officers escorting him back to his cell. The other two officers rushed in. One of these officers was injured and the other, Officer Hoffman, was killed attempting to protect his fallen comrade. Following this unprovoked, brutal stabbing, inmate Fountain waved his arms in a victory expression as he walked down the cell ranges in front of other inmates. This inmate was serving a life sentence for the murder of a staff sergeant while in the United States Marines. He had repeatedly engaged in extremely violent acts, including the murders of inmates in 1979, 1981, and 1982. He was serving three life sentences at the time he murdered Officer Hoffman......
"Inmates were frequently killing each other not because of any actual slight but because of the color of their skin. In one incident, Silverstein and an A.B. associate, Clayton Fountain, who, according to a friend, was eager to "make his bones," stabbed a leader of the rival gang D.C. Blacks sixty-seven times in the shower, then dragged his bloody corpse through the tiers while other white inmates chanted racial slurs. After Silverstein was charged with murdering another inmate, he boasted in court, "I have walked over dead bodies. I've had guts splattered all over my chest from race wars."
On a Saturday morning in the fall of 1983, at Marion federal prison, in southern Illinois, Thomas Silverstein waited for guards to take him for a routine shower. Marion, which is about a hundred miles southeast of St. Louis, was opened in 1963, the year that Alcatraz closed, and was designed to cope with the profusion of violent gang members--in particular, men like Silverstein, who by then had been convicted of murdering three inmates and had earned the nickname Terrible Tom (as he often signed his letters, with looping strokes).
Before taking Silverstein to the bathroom, the guards frisked him, to make sure he hadn't fashioned any weapons. (He often had pens and other sketching tools for his art work.) They also shackled his wrists. Three guards surrounded him, one of whom was a hard-nosed, nineteen-year veteran with military-style gray hair named Merle Clutts. Clutts, who was to retire in a few months, was perhaps the only guard in the unit who didn't fear Silverstein; he once reportedly told him, "Hey, I'm running this *beep* You ain't running it."
As the guards escorted Silverstein through the prison, he paused outside the cell of another gang member--who, as planned, suddenly reached between the bars and, with a handcuff key, unlocked Silverstein's shackles. Silverstein pulled a nearly foot-long knife from his conspirator's waistband. "This is between me and Clutts," Silverstein hollered as he rushed toward him.
One of the other guards screamed, "He's got a shank!" But Clutts was already cornered, without a weapon. He raised his hands while Silverstein stabbed him in the stomach. "He was just sticking Officer Clutts with that knife," another guard later recalled. "He was just sticking and sticking and sticking." By the time Silverstein relinquished the knife--"The man disrespected me," he told the guards. "I had to get him"--Clutts had been stabbed forty times. He died shortly afterward.
A few hours later, Clayton Fountain, Silverstein's close friend, was being led through the prison when he paused by another inmate's cell. In an instant, he, too, was free. "You *beep* want a piece of this?" he yelled, waving a blade. He stabbed three more guards. One died in the arms of his son, who also worked in the prison. Fountain reportedly said that he didn't want Silverstein to have a higher body count.
It was the first time in the history of American federal prisons that two guards had been killed on the same day. "You got to understand," Thompson said. "Here were guys in restraints, locked in the Hole in the most secure prison, and they were still able to get to the guards. It sent a simple message: We can get to you anywhere, anytime."
"On October 22, 1983, a Marion inmate named Thomas Silverstein managed to shake the federal prison system to its core. Returning to his cell from his weekly shower, handcuffed and escorted by three guards, Silverstein paused outside the H-unit cell of another inmate, Randy Gometz. In the flash of an eye, Gometz reached through the bars, unlocked Silverstein's cuffs with a hidden key and passed him a "shank"--a homemade knife.
Silverstein broke away from two of his captors and cornered the third, Officer Merle Clutts, who'd been distracted by another prisoner. By the time Silverstein was subdued, Clutts had been fatally wounded, stabbed more than forty times.
Later that same day, another H-unit inmate, Clay Fountain, performed a similar handcuff trick, killed another guard and stabbed two others. Like Silverstein, Fountain was already serving three life terms for the murders of other inmates. Both men were reputed members of the Aryan Brotherhood, with a pathological hatred of corrections officers; both had virtually nothing to lose. Prison legend has it that Fountain didn't want Silverstein to "get ahead" in the body count.
The murders triggered a lockdown of the entire prison--a lockdown that, with few modifications, persists to this day. In testimony before Congress and in media interviews, BOP officials still invoke the deaths of the two guards as ample justification for their policies regarding predatory inmates."
"In one infamous 24-hour period in 1983, two AB lifers escaped their handcuffs and killed two guards in the most secure unit of the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. They did it, most chroniclers of the event agree, for sport as much as spite, simply because they could -- spurring the outcry for a federal supermax that eventually led to the construction of ADX, the "Alcatraz of the Rockies." Yet despite being housed in the bowels of ADX, Mills and Tyler Davis "The Hulk" Bingham have allegedly continued to direct AB activities in other prisons, including the killing of black inmates in Illinois and Pennsylvania during a racially charged turf war in the late 1990s."
Clayton’s religious conversion
Clayton writes: Not long after my placement in the SHU I underwent a five year “trial-by-fire purification” process in which God worked to purge me of the inner ‘poisons’ (that is, hatred, rage, bias, bitterness, revenge, vengeance, violence, and so forth) that I had foolishly permitted to control much of my life so that I not only failed to make responsible choices and decisions for my life, but also ended up in prison. (From a letter to Fr Mark.)
Clayton’s conversion process resulted in his receiving Catholic baptism and confirmation both on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992.
Simultaneous to Clayton’s moral turnaround and religious conversions, he embarked on an intellectual adventure as well. Through correspondence courses, Clayton was granted, first a high school diploma, and later an AA degree (in 1997), and a Bachelor of Specialized Studies (in 2000), the latter two both from The Ohio University. In addition, he was awarded the Catechetical Diploma from the Catholic Distance University in 2001. At the time of his death, Clayton was already enrolled in the Master’s Degree program at CDU with hopes to seek admission to a Doctor of Theology program
In his Catholic period, Clayton made the acquaintance with our Fr Robert and with Fr Paul Jones, one of our other two Family Brothers. These became Clayton’s spiritual mentors. Through their guidance, Clayton was able to sustain and deepen his conversion. He creatively turned his solitary confinement into a rich and full eremitical life, follow a fairly detailed daily regime of prayer, study, exercise, and work.
The monks of Assumption Abbey are proud to include Clayton among their members. His life resembles in many ways the most dramatic stories of the early Desert Fathers. One is reminded, too, of the story of St Bernard. Return to Clairvaux after a trip, Bernard came across a murderer being led by the authorities to his execution. Bernard spoke to the captain: “Give him to me, and I will put him to death myself,” referring, of course, to the to sin and conversion to Christ in the Cistercian monastic way of life.
W. Paul Jones, a Roman Catholic priest and family brother in the Trappist order, here recounts his unlikely relationship with Clayton Fountain, a multiple murderer who was condemned to live out his days in solitary confinement. Fountain’s life and his remarkable religious conversion are the subject of Jones’s gripping new book.
My new book, A Different Kind of Cell: The Story of a Murderer Who Became a Monk, is an attempt to share with as wide a readership as possible the pilgrimage that I was on for years with a man regarded as the most dangerous person in the entire federal prison system, Clayton A. Fountain. Clayton’s downward spiral began in a deadly fight with his sergeant in Vietnam, followed by an escape involving a SWAT team and incarceration at Leavenworth prison. In the book I describe how, despite heightened security in each new prison, this man only became increasingly incorrigible — until, even in solitary confinement in the highest security prison of the nation, he killed four more persons in succession. By that time prison authorities had more than enough and declared him totally beyond their ability to control. They constructed an underground steel and concrete cell just for him, where he would remain in total segregation and isolation for the rest of his life. [...Read more]
Clayton A. Fountain's Resume'
A.A. Ohio University. Major in Social Sciences.
B.S.S. Ohio University. Major in Philosophy and Business.
C.C.D. Catholic Distance University (CDU). Catholic Catechetical Diploma '. (special ecclesiastical teaching certificate). Major in Religious Studies.
Currently a candidate for a Master of Arts in Religious Studies (MA) degree at the Catholic Distance University (CDU), Hamilton, Virginia, with twenty-four (24) semester credit hours earned and twelve (12) semester credit hours in progress. Currently holding a graduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.800 (on a 4.0 scale).
1995 -Present Employed in prison job as Clerk-Typist for Education and Recreation Departments. Major duties and responsibilities include the typing of any non-essential education and recreation material, special program fliers, miscellaneous education and recreation forms, or any other duties assigned by the Supervisor of Education and work supervisor. Pay grade 1, $66.00 per month--which .is used to pay for tuition in Master of Arts in Religious Studies (MA) degree program at the Catholic Distance University (CDU) in Hamilton, Virginia.
1983 -Present Incarcerated at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri (SMCFP-Springfield). Confined in a "Special Housing Unit" (SHU), under virtual isolation from all other prisoners and only limited contact with correctional staff, for the past twenty (20) years.
1976 -Present Transferred into the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), in April 1976.
1974 -1976 Incarcerated at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; transferred into federal prison system in April 1976.
1972 -1974 Enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC); part of a Fleet Marine Force aboard naval ships cruising the Southeast Asia area. Confined to brig on 6 March 1974; General Courts Martial trial and conviction for murder on 19 July 1974.
Received an award from The National Dean's List on 8 September 1999, ID #88017-17-5537-9, and selected for inclusion in the 22nd annual edition of The National Dean's List, 1998-1999.
Have prepared eighteen (18) critical analysis papers of literature relevant to a study being conducted by Professor David A. Ward, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, entitled "Study of the Effects of Long Term Confinement in Super Maximum Custody":
1). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Code of the Streets," .by Elijah Anderson (Atlantic Monthly, 1995.
2). Critical Analysis of the Article, "On Killing," by Dave Grossman (Little, Brown and Co., 1997).
3). Critical Analysis of Chapter 1, from the book, Seductions of Crime, by Jack Katz (Basic Books, 1998). -
4). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Imagining the Penitentiary," by John Bender, dated: 6 May 1 998.
5). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Psycopathological Effects of Solitary Confinement," by Stuart Grassian, M.D., dated: 22 July 1998.
6). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Infamous Punishment: The Psychological Consequences of Isolation," by Craig Haney, dated: 13 August 1998.
7). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Solitary Confinement in the Correctional Setting: Goals, Problems, and Suggestions," by Peter Suedfield, dated: 9 January 1999.
8). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Solitary Confinement As A Rehabilitative Technique: Reply To Lucas," by Peter Suedfield, dated: 28 January 1999.
9). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Reactions and Attributes of Prisoners In Solitary Confinement," by Peter Suedfield et al., dated: 1 April 1999.
10). Critical Analysis of the Article, "Criminal Homicide As A Transaction," by David F. Luckenbill, dated: 15 September 1999.
11 ). Critical Analysis of the Article, "War Behind Walls," by Edward Bunker, dated: 4 November 1999.
12). Critical Analysis of Chapter 5: "The Anatomy of Gang Violence," from the book, Island In The Street: Gangs and American Urban Society, by Martin Sanchez Janknowski, dated: 30 June 2000.
13). Critical Analysis of Chapter 4: Marion Penitentiary: A Brief History of Americas Toughest Prison, from the book, Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State, by Malcolm F. Feeley and Edward L. Rubin, dated: 8 February 2001.
14). Critical Analysis of the Foreword, Chapter 1: Defining Desistance, Chapter 3: Sample Prognosis: Dire, Chapter 5: Making Good: The Rhetoric of Redemption, and Chapter 8: The Rituals of Redemption, from the book, . Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives, by Shadd Maruna, with a foreword from Hans Toch, dated: 23 August 2001.
15). Critical Analysis of the Article, "The Purposes, Practices, and Problems of Supermax Prisons," by Leena Kurki and Norval Morris, from Volume 28 of Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Edited by Michael Tonry, (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 2001; pp. 385- 424), dated: 24 July 2002.
16). A Comparative Analysis of Two (2) "Special Housing Units" (SHU) Operated By The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) At The U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (USMCFP) Located In Springfield, Missouri, dated: 10 January 2003.
17). Critical Analysis of "The Hole: Solitary Confinement," from the book, In The Belly Of The Beast: Letters From Prison, by Jack Henry Abbott, With An Introduction By Norman Mailer (pp. 43-53) (New York, NY: Random House, 1980), dated: 28 May 2003.
18). Critical Analysis of "Chapter Three: The closed emotional world of the security wing" (pp. 60-85), and "Chapter Four: Time am Deterioration" (pp. 86-111) , from the book, Psychological Survival: The Experience of Long-Term Imprisonment, by Stanley Cohen and Laurie Taylor (New York NY: Penguin Books, 1975), dated: 3 July 2003.
As for the quality of these eighteen ( 18 ) works that have been done for Professor Ward's study since 1992, one may refer to an analysis provided by Professor Ward. Specifically, Professor Ward provides an analysis of the work I have done for him, based on his communications with me in writing, over the telephone, and through in-person visits since early 1992:
Mr. Fountain has been a significant help to me and to this project due to his superior intellectual ability. Under conditions of confinement that would depress and discourage most men, Mr. Fountain has challenged himself to improve his education, his methods of dealing with frustration, his relationship to prison staff, and making amends for his previous actions as best he can; his religious conversion has been the key to his new way of dealing with life's daily, and long term, annoyances and problems.
I have asked Mr. Fountain to read and critically review many articles and sections of books relating to crime, punishment, race relations, prison life, etc., and he has provided detailed and thoughtful analyses at a level equal to some of the best doctoral students I supervise. Mr. Fountain's writing provides clear evidence of superior intelligence, his ability to handle abstract concepts, and to grapple with complex issues in criminology and penology.
In addition, I am currently working on two (2) other critical analysis papers: one for Professor Ward and the second an independent project. The critical analysis paper for Professor Ward is entitled, "Critical Analysis of Chapter Four: Time and deterioration" (pp. 86-111), from the book, psychological Survival: The Experience of Long-Term Imprisonment, by Stanley Cohen and Laurie Taylor (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1975)." The second critical analysis paper, an independent project, is entitled, "Critical Analysis of the book, Justice Denied: Clemency Appeals In Death Penalty Cases," by Cathleen Burnett (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2002).
Future Educational Plans:
After completion of my MA degree program at COO (in approximately three more years), to seek admission into the Doctor of Theology (DTh) in Systematic Theology (or, alternatively, in Religious Studies) offered by the University of South Africa (UNISA). This is a two (2) to three (3) year doctorate program that will cost approximately six-thousand ($6,000.00) dollars in United States currency .
I am currently learning to master reading and translating classical Latin. My tutor is Fr. Donald Joseph Hamilton at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri. I will also need to learn to master reading and translating classical Hebrew and Greek. Learning to master these three (3) classical languages is needed as preparation for the DTh program at UNISA. After I complete mastering classical Latin, I can take classical Hebrew and Greek as undergraduate correspondence courses from UNISA.