In the world of corrections, there are inmates who pose security risks and then there is “El Chapo.” Drug lord Joaquin Guzman has an unparalleled record of jailbreaks, having escaped two high-security Mexican prisons before his ultimate capture and extradition to the US.
With Guzman convicted on Tuesday of drug trafficking and staring at an expected life sentence, where would the US imprison a larger-than-life kingpin with a Houdini-like tendency to slip away?
Experts say that Guzman seems the ideal candidate for the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, also known as ADX for “administrative maximum,” a facility so secure, so remote and so austere that it has been called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
Located outside an old mining town about two hours south of Denver, Supermax’s hardened buildings house the nation’s most violent offenders, with many of its 400 inmates held alone for 23 hours a day in cells 3.7m long and 2.1m wide with fixed furnishings made of reinforced concrete.
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols are among those who call it home.
However, Guzman, set to be sentenced in June for smuggling enormous amounts of narcotics into the US and having a hand in dozens of murders, would stand out even from Supermax’s infamous roster, because of his almost mythical reputation for breaking out.
Prisoners at Supermax spend years in solitary confinement and often go days “with only a few words spoken to them,” an Amnesty International report found.
One former prisoner described the lockup to the Boston Globe as a “high-tech version of hell, designed to shut down all sensory perception.”
US authorities have not said for certain where El Chapo is to be housed, but he is staring at “a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” US Attorney Richard Donoghue said after Tuesday’s verdict.
Guzman’s confinement leading up to his three-month trial included remarkable security measures reflecting his immense flight risk.
He has been housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a Manhattan lockup known as “Little Gitmo.”
Authorities have routinely shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to shuttle El Chapo to the federal court in a police motorcade that includes a SWAT team and ambulance tracked by helicopters.
Heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs have patrolled outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
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