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by | Feb 14, 2019 | Breaking News, Crime, Current Events, Government, News | 0 comments

There’s a supermax prison in Florence, Colo., two hours outside Denver. It’s the highest-security penitentiary in the United States. Since opening in 1994, no prisoner has escaped from the Administrative Maximum Facility — known as “the ADX” — one reason former members of federal law enforcement expect the Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán will spend the rest of his life there.

“For him to escape, he would have to have a warden in his pocket,” said a retired federal corrections officer, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. “It’s a very controlled environment. No one moves there without permission at all. No two inmates move in the facility at the same time.”

The retired officer, who was assigned to ADX, described the entire penitentiary as a singular special housing unit. The special housing unit (or “the SHU”) is solitary confinement. Prison officials at ADX did not respond to a request for comment.

Guzmán would be in rare company at the ADX, joining 400 male inmates and a roster of infamous convicted felons: Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Terry Nichols, co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing; Robert Hanssen, the traitorous double agent; and Zacarias Moussaoui, al-Qaeda operative and 9/11 conspirator.

Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor, described the penitentiary as a secure housing unit for “the most dangerous and notorious criminals in the world.”

It makes sense that a drug lord who’s already escaped two high-security Mexican prisons would be sent there. In 2001, Guzman bribed his way out of prison in a laundry basket. In 2015, he escaped out of another penitentiary in a movie-style jailbreak: crawling into a hatch beneath his shower and hopping on a waiting motorcycle through a tunnel dug underground.

Federal authorities haven’t confirmed exactly where Guzman will be held, but U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said Thursday that Guzman faces “a sentence from which there is no escape and no return.”

The prison, also called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” is surrounded by razor-wire fences, gun towers, heavily-armed patrols and attack dogs. Snipers guard the grounds in gun towers. No inmate has ever escaped the prison.

Inmates spend about 23 hours of every day in solitary confinement inside a 12-by-7-foot cell made of concrete with a small window. The room is designed so that inmates cannot have contact with others or much of the outside world.

“You’re designing it so the inmates can’t see the sky. Intentionally,” former Supermax prison warden Robert Hood told CNN. “You’re putting up wires so helicopters can’t land.”

Each cell contains a toilet, shower and bed (a concrete slab with a thin mattress). Meals are slid through openings in the doors.

“This place is not designed for humanity … It’s not designed for rehabilitation,” Hood told The New York Times.

An hour of outdoor time for inmates placed in restraints is allowed some days inside a cage slightly larger than the cells. Travis Dusenbury, who spent 10 years locked up in the prison, told Vice that that was the only contact he had with people, if his neighbor’s schedule lined up with his.

“The closest human contact you could get was what we called ‘finger handshakes’ through the fence,” Dusenbury said.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country became increasingly concerned about violent crime. The stereotypical “superpredator” loomed large in the public mind — conscienceless criminals who lacked empathy and were so reckless they impulsively killed, robbed and raped. The tough-on-crime stance that evolved under President Bill Clinton’s administration came and went, yet many of its policies and programs, including the administrative super-maximum security prisons, are still enforced.

In a 2017 news conference, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Robert Capers, said the U.S. government assured Mexico it would not seek the death penalty if Guzmán were extradited, standard procedure for U.S.-Mexico extraditions, according to law enforcement.

Having been convicted Tuesday of running a drug trafficking enterprise, Guzmán faces multiple life sentences; he will be sentenced in federal court June 25.

“I expect the Bureau of Prisons would be concerned about El Chapo’s communication access; his phone calls, email access and letters are likely to be more closely monitored than the average prison there for federal drug possession,” Golden said, adding that the bureau should account for other factors, such as medical needs, security and communication needs, housing availability, and space.

When you go inside most prisons — even high-security prisons — they’re busy. People are walking around. But not at the ADX.

“The segregation is intense; it’s a punitive environment as harsh as any place on Earth,” Levin said. “It won’t be a coincidence if El Chapo is sent there.”

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