The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is an American federal prison that uniquely 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.
|Location||Fremont County, near Florence, Colorado|
|Security class||Supermax with adjacent minimum security camp|
|Population||927 (408 supermax, 519 camp)|
|Managed by||Federal Bureau of Prisons|
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. Prisoners spend 23 hours a day in single, soundproof cells with facilities made of poured concrete to deter self-harm, and 24-hour supervision, carried out intensively with high staff-inmate ratios. Phones are generally banned and only limited broadcast entertainment permitted. After a 3-year sentence, prisoners may be transferred to a less restrictive prison. The aim is to encourage “reasonably peaceful behaviour” from the most violent career prisoners.
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.
The institution is unofficially known as ADX Florence, Florence ADMAX, or the "Alcatraz of the Rockies." It is part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a division of the United States Department of Justice. It houses the male inmates in the federal prison system who are deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control, including prisoners whose escape would pose a serious threat to national security. ADX also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, as of March 2014[update], houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.
The BOP does not have a designated "supermax" facility for women. Women in the BOP system who are classified as "special management concerns" due to violence or escape attempts are confined in the administrative unit of Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 1983, two federal correction officers were stabbed to death in separate incidents at United States Penitentiary, Marion by members of the Aryan Brotherhood. The stabbings were blamed on inadequate prison design. As a result, Norman Carlson, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, argued for the creation of a new type of facility where the most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for security and safety. USP Marion, which went into "permanent lockdown" following the 1983 murders, became a model for the construction of ADX, designed as a control unit prison. Carlson said that such a prison would hold inmates desperate enough to murder corrections officers or other inmates in the hopes of being sentenced to death.
ADX opened in November 1994, and the residents of Fremont County, Colorado welcomed it as a source of employment. The county already had nine prisons, but the lure of 750 to 900 permanent jobs (plus temporary jobs during the prison's construction) led residents to raise $160,000 to purchase 600 acres (240 ha) for the new prison. Hundreds of people attended the groundbreaking for the facility, which was designed by two leading architecture firms in Colorado Springs and cost $60 million to build.
The supermax unit at ADX Florence houses about 410 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.
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 showering, exercise, and with privileges, a phone call. Their diet is restricted to ensure that the foods they are served (in their cell) can't be used to harm themselves, or to create unhygienic conditions in their cell.
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".
ADX Florence is a 37-acre (15 ha), 490-bed complex at 5880 Highway 67, Florence, Colorado, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Denver and 40 miles (64 km) south of Colorado Springs. It is one part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FFCC) which comprises three correctional facilities, each with a different security rating.
The majority of the facility is above ground. The only part that is underground is a subterranean corridor that links cellblocks to the lobby. Inmates spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells and are escorted by a minimum of three officers for their five hours of private recreation per week. Each cell has a desk, a stool, and a bed, which are almost entirely made out of poured concrete, as well as a toilet that shuts off if blocked, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink lacking a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light that can be shut off only remotely, a radio, and on rare occasions, a black-and-white television that shows recreational, educational, and religious programming. In addition, all cells are soundproofed to prevent prisoners from communicating with each other via Morse code.
The 1⁄3-by-4-foot (0.10 by 1.22 m) windows are designed to prevent inmates from knowing their specific location within the complex because they can see only the sky and roof through them, making it virtually impossible to plan an escape. Inmates exercise in a concrete pit resembling an empty swimming pool, also designed to prevent them from knowing their location in the facility. The pit is only large enough for a prisoner to walk 10 steps in a straight line, or 31 steps in a circle. Telecommunication with the outside world is forbidden, and food is hand-delivered by correction officers. However, inmates sent here from other prisons can potentially be allowed to eat in a shared dining room. The prison as a whole contains a multitude of motion detectors and cameras, and 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors. Officers in the prison's control center monitor inmates 24 hours a day and can activate a "panic button" that instantly closes every door in the facility should an escape attempt be suspected. Pressure pads and 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) razor wire fences surround the perimeter, which is patrolled by heavily armed officers. In the case of inmates who are deemed to be extreme security risks, the center of the prison houses an area known as the "Z-Unit". Each of the three Z-Unit cells is equipped with a full set of body restraints that are built directly into the concrete bed, as is true for every cell in the facility.
Cheri Nolan, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President George W. Bush, toured ADX Florence in 2004 while a member of the advisory board for the National Institute of Corrections, a federal agency that supports correctional programs. Nolan stated, "I've never seen anything like it as far as the technology and physical set up. Once you're inside you really can't tell where you are - what's north, south, east or west. The way it's designed, it's an interesting kind of setup," Nolan said. "Because of the high value of targets they have there – on a world scale, whether it be a drug cartel or terrorists – they are as concerned with someone trying to get in to break someone out as much as they are about inmates trying to escape. The protection around the prison is pretty remarkable."
The Federal Bureau of Prisons allowed the media to take a guided tour of ADX on September 14, 2007. Attending reporters remarked on "an astonishing and eerie quiet" within the prison as well as a sense of safety due to the rigorous security measures in place within the facility. One journalist who took the tour, 60 Minutes producer Henry Schuster, said: "A few minutes inside that cell and two hours inside Supermax were enough to remind me why I left high school a year early. The walls close in very fast."
The prison has come under far less criticism than comparable facilities at the state level, which tend to suffer heavily from overpopulation, low staff-to-inmate ratios and security issues inherent to attempting to enforce a supermax system in a non-purpose-built facility. Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch said after a tour of the facility, "The Bureau of Prisons has taken a harsh punitive model and implemented it as well as anybody I know." Notorious escape artist Richard Lee McNair wrote to a journalist from his cell in 2009 to say "Thank God for prisons [...] There are some very sick people in here... Animals you would never want living near your family or the public in general. I don't know how corrections staff deal with it. They get spit on, shit on, abused and I have seen them risk their own lives and save a prisoner many times."
In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and officials who run ADX Florence, Bacote v. Federal Bureau of Prisons now titled Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. The suit alleged chronic abuse, as well as failure to properly diagnose – and neglect of – prisoners who are seriously mentally ill. Critics believe that the use of extended confinement in solitary cells adversely affects prisoners' mental health. As of March 2015, settlement negotiations were underway with the help of a federal magistrate and some improvements had been made by the Bureau of Prisons.
Notable current inmatesEdit
This list contains foreign citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.
All sentences are without parole; since 1987 parole is not afforded to prisoners sentenced under federal law.
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|Zacarias Moussaoui||51427-054||Serving 6 life sentences.||French citizen and Al-Qaeda operative, pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges in 2005 for playing a key role in planning the September 11 attacks by helping the hijackers obtain flight lessons, money and material used in the attacks.|
|Ramzi Yousef||03911-000||Serving life plus 240 years.||Convicted in 1994 of terrorism conspiracy and other charges in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed 6 people and injured more than 1000. Yousef was also convicted in 1996 of planning Project Bojinka, a foiled plot conceived by senior Al-Qaeda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to bomb twelve planes in a 48-hour period.|
|Serving life sentences.||Al-Qaeda operatives from Lebanon/Kuwait, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia; convicted in connection with the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, which were conceived by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; the bombings killed 224 people and injured more than 4000.|
|Abu Hamza al-Masri||67495-054||Serving a life sentence under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa.||Egyptian cleric and former associate of deceased Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; extradited from the UK in 2012; convicted in 2014 of masterminding the 1998 kidnapping of Westerners in Yemen and conspiring to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999.|
|Richard Reid||24079-038||Serving 3 life sentences plus 110 years.||British national who became an Al-Qaeda operative; pleaded guilty in 2002 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his 2001 attempt to detonate explosive devices hidden in his shoes on a plane traveling from Paris to Miami; known as the "Shoe Bomber."|
|Umar Abdulmutallab||44107-039||Serving 4 life sentences plus 50 years.||A Nigerian national and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operative, follower of the late militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki; pleaded guilty in 2011 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for trying to detonate an explosive sewn into his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009; known as the "Underwear Bomber."|
|Ahmed Ressam||29638-086||Serving a 37-year sentence; scheduled for release on December 16, 2032.||Algerian national convicted in 2001 of terrorism conspiracy for planning to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999, in what is known as one of the 2000 millennium attack plots.|
|Simón Trinidad||27896-016||Serving a 60-year sentence under the name Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda; scheduled for release on April 10, 2056.||Member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla group on the U.S. State Department list of Terrorist Organizations; convicted in 2007 of terrorism conspiracy for his involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of three American military contractors.|
|Adis Medunjanin||65114-053||Serving a life sentence.||Al-Qaeda operative; convicted in 2012 of plotting to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009; co-conspirators Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty.|
|Sulaiman Abu Ghaith||91969-054||Serving a life sentence.||Al-Qaeda spokesman and son-in-law to Osama Bin Laden. Convicted in March 2014 for conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists.|
|Mamdouh Mahmud Salim||42426-054||Serving a life sentence.||Al-Qaeda co-founder and advisor to Osama Bin Laden. Extradited in 1998 for participating in the U.S. Embassy bombings and sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder during an escape attempt in 2000.|
|Shain Duka||61284-066||Serving a life sentence||Convicted in 2008, to kill members of the Army, at the Fort Dix, New Jersey, army base. His two brothers were also convicted, Eljvir Duka, who is being held at USP Florence High and Dritan Duka who is being held at USP Marion|
This list contains U.S. citizens regardless of origin who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|Dzhokhar Tsarnaev||95079-038||Sentenced to death on June 24, 2015.||Participant in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; Dzhokhar planted a pressure cooker bomb at the direction of his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev near the finish line, which killed 3 people and injured over 250. He will be transferred to the USP Haute when the execution date is set.|
|Ahmed Omar Abu Ali||70250-083||Serving a life sentence.||Al-Qaeda operative; convicted in 2005 of plotting to assassinate U.S. President George W. Bush. Federal prosecutors based their case on a confession Abu Ali provided to Saudi Arabian intelligence officials, which Abu Ali claimed was extracted by torture.|
|Theodore Kaczynski||04475-046||Serving 8 life sentences.||Known as the Unabomber; pleaded guilty in 1998 to building, transporting, and mailing explosives to carry out 16 bombings from 1978 to 1995 in a mail bombing campaign targeting those involved with modern technology, which killed 3 people and injured 23 others.|
|Terry Nichols||08157-031||Serving 161 consecutive life sentences.||Co-conspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh, who planned and carried out the bombing was executed in Indiana in 2001.|
|José Padilla||20796-424||Serving a 21-year sentence; scheduled for release on December 25, 2025.||Al-Qaeda operative and one of the first U.S. citizens to be designated as an enemy combatant after the September 11th attacks; convicted in 2007 of terrorism conspiracy for traveling overseas to attend an Al-Qaeda training camp in order to murder citizens of a foreign country.|
|Eric Rudolph||18282-058||Serving 4 consecutive life sentences.||Member of the Christian extremist group Army of God; pleaded guilty in 2005 to carrying out four bombings between 1996 and 1998, including the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta; 3 people were killed during the bombing spree.|
|Faisal Shahzad||63510-054||Serving a life sentence.||Tehrik-i-Taliban operative; pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges in connection with the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt; received explosives training in 2009 from the terrorist organization Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan.|
|Naser Jason Abdo||80882-280||Serving 2 life sentences plus 60 years.||U.S. Army private who refused to deploy to Afghanistan and went AWOL; convicted in 2012 of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for plotting to detonate a bomb at a restaurant near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, when it was filled with soldiers in 2011.|
|Joseph Konopka||20749-424||Serving a 13-year sentence; scheduled for release on August 24, 2019.||Pleaded guilty in 2002 to causing blackouts in Wisconsin by damaging power substations and utility facilities, as well as storing potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide in the Chicago subway system; also known as "Dr. Chaos."|
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|Noshir Gowadia||95518-022||Serving a 32-year sentence; scheduled for release on September 11, 2033.||Former engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense and principal designer of the B-2 stealth bomber; convicted in 2011 of using classified information to assist the People's Republic of China in producing cruise missiles with stealth technology.|
|Robert Hanssen||48551-083||Serving 15 consecutive life sentences.||Former senior FBI agent assigned to counterintelligence; pleaded guilty in 2002 to espionage for passing classified information to the Soviet Union and later to Russia over a 20-year period, which was regarded as the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history at the time; betraying dozens of U.S. intelligence agents, several of whom were executed directly due to Hanssen's betrayal.|
|Walter Myers||29796-016||Serving a life sentence.||Former intelligence analyst for the U.S. State Department; pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to commit espionage for providing classified U.S. national defense information to Cuba. His wife, Gwendolyn Myers, was sentenced to 6 years.|
|Harold Nicholson||49535-083||Serving a 23-year sentence; scheduled for release on June 27, 2024.||Highest-ranking CIA officer to be convicted of espionage; pleaded guilty in 1997 to passing classified information to Russia from 1994 to 1996; pleaded guilty in 2010 to attempting to collect payments from Russian agents for his past espionage activities.|
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|Osiel Cárdenas Guillén||62604-079||Serving a 25-year sentence; scheduled for release on February 12, 2025.||Succeeded Juan García as leader of the Gulf Cartel; extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in 2007 and pleaded guilty to threatening to murder U.S. law enforcement agents, drug trafficking and money laundering.|
Organized crime figuresEdit
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|James Marcello||99076-012||Serving a life sentence.||Reputed "Front Boss" of the Chicago Outfit; convicted of racketeering conspiracy for participating in or ordering 18 murders and directing criminal activities including extortion, illegal gambling, loansharking, and bribery.|
|Luis Felipe||14067-074||Serving life plus 45 years.||Leader of the New York chapter of the Latin Kings gang; convicted in 1996 of murder conspiracy and racketeering for running a criminal enterprise whose members engage in murder, assault, armed robbery, and drug trafficking; Felipe is known as "King Blood."|
|Serving life sentences.||Leaders of the Mexican Mafia; convicted of racketeering and murder conspiracy for running violent drug trafficking operations.|
|Tyler Bingham||03325-091||Serving a life sentence.||Aryan Brotherhood prison gang founder; along with Barry Mills, transferred to ADX in 2006 after being connected to violent gang activities in prison; convicted of murder, murder conspiracy, and racketeering for ordering the killing of two African-American inmates at USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania.|
|Thomas Silverstein||14634-116||Serving a life sentence.||Aryan Brotherhood prison gang leader (considered one of the most dangerous inmates in the federal prison system); transferred to ADX after murdering Correction Officer Merle Clutts at USP Marion in 1983 while serving a sentence for bank robbery. The murder of two correctional officers in 1983 was the impetus for creating the "super-max" prison classification.|
|Larry Hoover||86063-024||Serving 6 life sentences.||Leader of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago; sentenced to life in state prison in 1973 for murder; convicted in 1997 of drug conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, and running a continuing criminal enterprise for leading the gang from state prison.|
|Jeff Fort||92298-024||Serving a 168-year sentence; scheduled for release on October 14, 2044.||Founder of the El-Rukn (Black P. Stones) gang in Chicago; convicted of drug trafficking charges in 1983; convicted of terrorism conspiracy in 1987 for plotting to commit attacks inside the U.S. in exchange for weapons and $2.5 million from Libya.|
|O. G. Mack||30063-037||Serving a 50-year sentence under his actual name, Omar Portee; scheduled for release on February 4, 2045.||Founder of the United Blood Nation gang; convicted in 2002 of racketeering and murder conspiracy, as well as narcotics and weapons charges.|
|Kaboni Savage||58232-066||Sentenced to death on June 3, 2013.||Philadelphia drug kingpin; convicted in 2013 of 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering for ordering six drug-related homicides, as well as the firebombing of the home of a federal witness which killed two adults and four children.|
|Chevie Kehoe||21300-009||Serving 3 consecutive life sentences.||Murderer and white supremacist. Convicted in 1998 of the torture-murders of William, Nancy, and Sarah Mueller. Serving 3 life sentences. Accomplice Daniel Lewis Lee was sentenced to death.|
|Perry Roark||53975-037||Serving a life sentence.||Founder of Dead Man Incorporated, a prison gang active in four states; pleaded guilty in 2012 to leading a racketeering enterprise which engaged in murder and threats to commit murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and extortion.|
|James (Jimmy) Sabatino||30906-004||Serving 20 years; scheduled for release on September 9, 2035.||Leader of a prison-based crime enterprise associated with the Gambino organized crime family who committed fraud, bribery, witness tampering, and conspiracy to commit murder. He notoriously ran a $10.4 million fraud scheme from inside of his prison cell at a Federal Detention Center in Miami. The special conditions of Sabatino's sentence restrict his communications to only a few people.|
|Inmate name||Register number||Photo||Status||Details|
|Dwight York||17911-054||Serving a 135-year sentence; scheduled for release on June 7, 2122.||Founder and leader of the Nuwaubian Nation, a black supremacist cult. Convicted in 2004 of child molestation, racketeering and conspiracy, and fraud.|
|Richard McNair||13829-045||Serving 2 life sentences on a state murder charge from North Dakota in 1987.||Held at ADX due to multiple prison escapes; escaped from the Ward County Jail in Minot, North Dakota in 1987 by using lip balm to slip out of handcuffs, from the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck in 1992 by crawling through a ventilator duct (after which McNair was placed in federal custody at North Dakota's request), and from USP Pollock in Louisiana in 2006 by concealing himself in a pallet of used and damaged mailbags being moved from the prison factory to a prison warehouse outside of the secure perimeter.|
|Michael Swango||08352-424||Serving 3 life sentences.||Physician and serial killer; pleaded guilty in 2000 to fatally poisoning four patients; has been linked to scores of other deaths.|
|Paul Bergrin||16235-050||Serving a life sentence.||Attorney convicted of conspiracy to murder a witness and other racketeering, cocaine and prostitution offenses.|
|Matthew F. Hale||15177-424||Serving a 40-year prison term; scheduled for release on December 30, 2037||White supremacist leader of the WCOTC cult. Convicted in 2005 for soliciting an FBI informant to kill federal judge, Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Transferred to Federal Correctional Institution, Terre Haute, in 2016 but was moved back to ADX.|
- Federal Medical Center, Carswell, contains an Administrative Unit which is the equivalent to the ADX for federal female inmates. It also houses female federal inmates sentenced to death.
- Incarceration in the United States
- List of U.S. federal prisons
- Special Handling Unit, a supermax prison operated by Corrections Canada
- Black Dolphin Prison, a similar facility operated by the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation
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