‘Hell’ on Earth: El Chapo’s Future In SuperMax

Image: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Euronews – Mexican drug king pin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is likely to spend the rest of his days in high security ADX lock up in Colorado, the federal prison often called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” or “SuperMax.”

The prison’s conditions are so harsh that a former guard was quoted as saying it is “a cleaner version of hell”.

Gone are the days of luxury for the notorious drug trafficker. El Chapo will spend 22-24 hours per day in an 8×10 foot cell consisting of a bunk, desk and stool, all made of concrete, along with a sink, shower, and toilet.

The cells are almost completely void of daylight, with a four-inch “arrow slit” dug into the wall.

An airtight steel door allows for no contact with neighboring detainees.

No escapes likely

“El Chapo” was known for his ability to evade the Mexican authorities and famed for prison breaks.

In SuperMax, though, his talents will be less useful — no one has ever escaped from the prison since it opened in 1994.

The convicted Sinaloa Cartel leader faces life in prison at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for June 25. Read more. 

Supermax prison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Super-maximum security (supermax) or administrative maximum (ADX) is a term used to describe “control-unit” prisons, or units within prisons, which represent the most secure levels of custody in the prison systems of certain countries.

The term is used in the United States and a number of other countries to describe the most secure form of security within a certain prison system.

The objective is to provide long-term, segregated housing for inmates classified as the highest security risks in the prison system—the “worst of the worst” criminals—and those who pose an extremely serious threat to both national and global security.


According to the National Institute of Corrections, an agency of the United States government; “a supermax is a stand-alone unit or part of another facility and is designated for violent or disruptive inmates.

It typically involves up to 23-hour-per-day, single-cell confinement for an indefinite period of time. Inmates in supermax housing have minimal contact with staff and other inmates,” a definition confirmed by a majority of prison wardens.

Leena Kurki and Norval Morris have argued there is no absolute definition of a supermax, and that different jurisdictions classify prisons as supermax inconsistently. They identify four general features that tend to characterize supermax prisons:

  1. Long-term: once transferred to a supermax prison, prisoners tend to stay there for several years or indefinitely.
  2. Powerful administration: supermax administrators and correctional officers have ample authority to punish and manage inmates, without outside review or prisoner grievance systems. Jail Must Provide Drugs to Addict Inmates: Judge
  3. Solitary confinement: supermax prisons rely heavily on intensive (and long-term) solitary confinement, which is used to isolate and punish prisoners as well as to protect them from themselves and each other. Communication with outsiders is minimal to none.
  4. Very limited activities: few opportunities are provided for recreation, education, substance abuse programs, or other activities generally considered healthy and rehabilitative at other prisons. Cruel and Unusual? NC Inmate’s Penis Amputated

In supermax, prisoners are generally allowed out of their cells for only one hour a day (one-and-a-half hours in California state prisons). They receive their meals through ports in the doors of their cells.

When supermax inmates are allowed to exercise, this may take place in a small, enclosed area where the prisoner will exercise alone. Prisoners Sue State Over Porn Ban

Prisoners are under constant surveillance, usually with closed-circuit television cameras.

Cell doors are usually opaque, while the cells may be windowless. Furnishings are plain, with poured concrete or metal furniture common.

Cell walls, and sometimes plumbing, may be soundproofed to prevent communication between the inmates.

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ADX Florence

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is an American federal prison that provides a higher level of custody than a maximum security prison.

It is classed as a supermax, or “control unit” prison, where the safety of inmates and staff is paramount. Located in Fremont County, Colorado, and opened in 1994, it is known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons had declared a need for a unit designed specifically for the secure housing of those prisoners most liable to murder staff or other inmates.

The high standard of security has been noted by many, though there is some concern about the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health.

Inmate population

The supermax unit at ADX Florence houses about 400 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.[11] It is designed for 490 inmates but has never been full.

The facility is best known for housing inmates who have been deemed too dangerous, too high-profile, or too great a national security risk for even a maximum-security prison.

These include the leaders of violent gangs who had continued to issue orders to their members from lower-security facilities: Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples, and Tyler Bingham of the Aryan Brotherhood.

ADX also houses foreign terrorists, including:

  • Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in civilian court of the September 11 attacks;
  • Faisal Shahzad, the perpetrator of the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt;
  • and Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing;
  • as well as domestic terrorists, such as Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph.

Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was housed at ADX before he was sentenced to death in 1997 and transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, which houses most federal death row inmates and is where Federal death sentences are carried out.

McVeigh’s co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, is serving 161 life sentences at ADX. Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent who betrayed several spies to the Soviet Union and Russia, is serving 15 life sentences at ADX for his crimes.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombings, was transferred here from another prison in the Florence complex on July 17, 2015.

The prison also houses inmates who are a high escape risk, including Richard McNair, who escaped from a county jail and two other prisons before being sent to ADX.

However, the majority of inmates have been sent there because they have an extensive history of committing violent crimes against corrections officers and fellow inmates in other prisons, up to and including murder. These inmates are kept in administrative segregation.

They are confined in a specifically designed single-person cell for 23 hours a day.

They are removed under restraint (handcuffed, shackled or both), on a 24-hour clock (i.e., their one-hour time out of their cell may occur at any time of the day or night).

The hour outside of the cell is for exercise, and with privileges, a phone call. Their diet is restricted to ensure that the foods they are served (in their cell) cannot be used to harm themselves, or to create unhygienic conditions in their cell. At least some cells have showers which reduces the amount of handling guards need to do.

After at least one year, depending on their conduct, inmates are then gradually allowed out for longer periods. The long-term goal is to keep them at ADX for three years, then transfer them to a less restrictive prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences.

According to a 1998 report in the San Francisco Chronicle, ADX Florence’s main purpose is to “try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners”.