Thefederal government runs only one “supermax” prison: Colorado’s Administrative Maximum Security Penitentiary, also known as ADX or, less affectionately, the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
One more criminal could join the ranks — Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the elusive kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, who was recently captured in Mexico after a covert interview with actor Sean Penn.
ADX Florence is the highest-security prison in the entire country, reserved for “a very small subset of the inmate population who show absolutely no concern for human life,” in the words of Norman Carlson, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
And there’s a “very strong possibility” that Guzmán will spend the rest of his days there, Jens David Ohlin, an international law professor at Cornell, told Business Insider via email.
“Obviously the US government will want to deter the possibility of his soldiers even trying an escape, so they will want to house him in the most secure facility possible.”
“First, there is the embarrassment of his multiple escapes. Second, there is burgeoning reputation as a ‘folk hero,” Ohlin said. “All of this adds up to a compelling desire to extradite him to the United States.”
On January 10, the Mexican government said that it activated the extradition process for Guzmán. But according to a former US federal prosecutor,
the pace of this procedure is still
up to the Mexican government.
Guzmán “has already filed various actions in Mexico to stop his extradition, and I’m sure that some of those are still pending, so the question is whether or not the government in Mexico is going” to let him continue fighting the process, said Marcos Jiménez, a former US attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
At least one prominent drug cartel leader, Juan Garcia Abrego, was also sent to ADX after being successfully extradited, according to the Associated Press.
A federal court — possibly in New York, Chicago, or San Diego, according to Ohlin — will handle the prosecution (although about a dozen cities are jockeying for the responsibility).
Simply put, criminals tried federally end up in federal prison, and ADX is the most secure the US can offer.
There, every inmate spends roughly 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, The New York Times reported in an in-depth feature with unprecedented access to the facility.
The Times described their daily life like this:
Inmates spend their days in 12-by-7-foot cells with thick concrete walls and double sets of sliding metal doors (with solid exteriors, so prisoners can’t see one another). A single window, about three feet high but only four inches wide, offers a notched glimpse of sky and little else.
Each cell has a sink-toilet combo and an automated shower, and prisoners sleep on concrete slabs topped with thin mattresses. Most cells also have televisions (with built-in radios), and inmates have access to books and periodicals, as well as certain arts-and-craft materials. Prisoners in the general population are allotted a maximum of 10 hours of exercise a week outside their cells, alternating between solo trips to an indoor “gym” (a windowless cell with a single chin-up bar) and group visits to the outdoor rec yard (where each prisoner nonetheless remains confined to an individual cage).
All meals come through slots in the interior door, as does any face-to-face human interaction (with a guard or psychiatrist, chaplain or imam). The Amnesty report said that ADX prisoners “routinely go days with only a few words spoken to them.”
“The biggest difference [for El Chapo],” Ohlin said, “would be the amount of time spent in solitary confinement. And there won’t be any tunnels leading to his shower.”
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