Hood, who was warden from 2002 to 2005, made the above statement in an interview with 60 Minutes. He was describing the harsh conditions of the highest security prison in the United States—sometimes called the “Supermax.” ADX has also earned the nickname “The Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
The city of Florence is situated in Fremont County, where prisons are an established part of the scenery. The county is home to 15 different prisons, which has earned it the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of incarcerated population in the United States. Inmates housed in the prisons make up 20% of the county’s population.
ADX was originally constructed in 1994 to house violent male prisoners from other facilities in the US Federal Prison System. It was meant to be a temporary place to detain inmates in the hopes of correcting their behavior. If the inmates followed the rules, they would be transferred to another facility.
Because of its original purpose, the prison is designed for solitary confinement. While a handful of other prisons in the United States have high-security “Supermax” units, ADX is unique in that the entire prison is designed for maximum isolation. Today, most of the cells are still used for temporary inmates from other federal prisons who have repeatedly attacked other inmates and correction officers.
But the prison is best known for residents who are there for life. ADX is also used to house prisoners deemed too dangerous for even the most high-security units of other federal facilities. Past and current inmates include notorious terrorists, including Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks.
At ADX, the prisoners remain in their cells 23 hours a day. They are allowed three showers and five hours of exercise a week—if they behave. The exercise hours are a privilege denied to many prisoners, and they take place in an indoor room with one exercise bar. Alternatively, the prisoners can walk around in a small outdoor cage. Whenever the inmates leave their cell, they are accompanied by at least three guards and bound with ankle shackles, handcuffs, and a chain around their stomach.
The cells measure 7×12 feet, and feature a desk, a stool, and a bed, all of which are almost completely made out of poured concrete. Prisoners receive meals slid through a small slot in the door. There is a thin window in which a small amount of light filters in.
Inmates have severely restricted contact with the outside world—they are allowed one 15 minute phone call (for non-legal purposes) per month, and they have restricted lengths for the letters they write.
The isolation has proved overwhelming for many of the occupants. In a sworn statement, former prisoner Thomas Silverstein testified that he had gone years without seeing “a single tree, a blade of grass, or any sign of nature.” Since the prison opened, seven of the inmates have committed suicide.
“There have been some reports that the conditions at Guantanamo are better than at the ADX,” said Laura Rovner, an associate law professor at the University of Denver College of Law who has represented ADX, in an interview with the Boston Globe. “It’s a place that strips away your humanity. It takes away the part of us that relates to other people, how we make sense of the world and attribute value.”
ADX may be one of the worst, but it is far from the only detention facility that creates a hellish environment for inmates. If you have been accused of a crime, it is imperative that you fight back with a strong defense. Contact an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney with a track record of success as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance at avoiding incarceration.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.