The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, USA. It is unofficially known as ADX Florence, Florence ADMAX, Supermax, or The Alcatraz of the Rockies. It is operated by the federal government and is part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FCC). ADX houses the prisoners who are deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control. It is the highest level security federal prison in the United States, and generally considered to be the most secure prison in the world.


ADX Florence was constructed as a response to two incidents that occurred on October 22, 1983, in which inmates murdered their accompanying guards at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. Relatively lax security procedures allowed each prisoner, while walking down a hall, to turn to the side and approach a particular cell so an accomplice could unlock his handcuffs with a stolen key and provide him with a knife. Two guards were killed in two separate incidents by this tactic.

As a result, the prison in Marion went into "permanent lockdown" and transformed itself into a "control unit" prison. This penal construction and operation theory dictates that inmates remain in solitary confinement for 22–23 hours each day. They do not allow communal dining, exercising, or religious services. These practices are used as administrative measures to keep prisoners under control.

Following the killings, Norman Carlson, then director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, persuaded the federal government that a more secure type of prison needed to be designed. There was a need to isolate uncontrollable prisoners from officers and from other prisoners for the sake of security and safety. Marion became a model for the subsequent construction of ADX Florence, a facility built as a control unit prison.

ADX Florence opened in November 1994. The residents in Florence's surrounding area, Fremont County, welcomed the prison as a source of employment in a time of economic hardship. At the time, the county was already home to nine existing prisons. However, the lure of between 750 to 900 permanent jobs, in addition to another 1,000 temporary jobs during the prison's construction, led residents in the area to raise $160,000 to purchase 600 acres (2.4 km2) for the new prison. Hundreds of people attended the groundbreaking construction of ADX Florence, which cost over $60 million.

On September 14, 2007, the first-ever media tour of the U.S. Bureau of Prison's Administrative Maximum prison, or "Supermax," was allowed. 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 person who went on this tour was 60 Minutes producer Henry Schuster, who 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."

Prison facility

Supermax prison, Florence Colorado.

ADX Florence is a federal prison, comprising a 37-acre (150,000 m2), 490-bed complex at 5880 Highway 67, Florence, Colorado. It is one of three correctional facilities of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FFCC), each with a different overall security level.

ADX Florence generally houses around 430 male prisoners, each assigned to one of six security levels. ADX Florence was designed jointly by DLR Group and LKA Partners of Colorado Springs.

About 22% of inmates have killed fellow prisoners in other correctional facilities; 35% have attempted to attack other prisoners or officers. 43% have not attacked anyone in prison. As a result, most individuals are kept for at least 23 hours each day in solitary confinement. They are housed in a 7 ft (2.1 m) by 12 ft (3.7 m) room, built behind a steel door and grate. Their free hour is spent exercising alone in a separate concrete chamber. Prisoners seldom see one another, and the inmates' only direct human interaction is with correctional officers or other prison staff. Visiting from outside the prison is conducted through glass, with each prisoner in a separate chamber. Religious services are broadcast from a small chapel.

Part of the prison is a "stepdown" program, designed to encourage less antisocial behavior and eventually transfer prisoners out of the ADX and back to the Maximum Security population. The program is three years in length allowing more freedom and social contact with other inmates with each subsequent year. Any violation during the program means participants revert to year one.

Most cells' furniture is made almost entirely out of poured concrete, including the desk, stool, and bed. Each chamber contains a toilet that shuts off if plugged, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink missing a potentially dangerous trap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light, a radio, and a television set that shows recreational, educational and religious programming. These privileges can be taken away as punishment. The 4 in (10 cm) by 4 ft (1.2 m) windows are designed to prevent the prisoner from knowing his specific location within the complex because he can see only the sky and roof through them. Also inmates exercise in what's been described as an "empty swimming pool," so they do not know their location for possible escape. Telecommunication with the outside world is forbidden, and food is hand-delivered by correctional officers. The prison as a whole contains a multitude of motion detectors and cameras, 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors, and 12 ft (3.66 m) high razor wire fences. Laser beams, pressure pads, and attack dogs guard the area between the prison walls and razor wire.

Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber, lamented in a series of 2006 letters to a Colorado Springs newspaper that the ADX is meant to "inflict misery and pain." In contrast, Charles Harrelson, who was sent to ADX after a failed attempt to escape from a Georgia prison, said "Part of the plan here is sensory deprivation," and "It could be infinitely worse." A former ADX warden described the place as "a cleaner version of Hell." There have been hundreds of "involuntary feedings" and four suicides. Most recently, in June 2009 Richard Colvin Reid went on a hunger strike and was force-fed.

Later Headman became the first person ever to escape ADX, with the help of Nightfall.

Notable inmates

Name Number Details
Anthony Casso 16802-050 Mobster and former underboss of the Lucchese crime family
Wadih el-Hage 42393-054 Conspirator in the 1998 United States embassy bombings
Matthew F. Hale 15177-424 White supremacist leader; convicted of soliciting the murder of a federal judge
Larry Hoover 86063-024 Leader of the Gangster Disciples Nation based in Chicago
Jeff Fort 92298-024 Co-founder of the Black P. Stones gang in Chicago, and founder of its El Rukn faction
Theodore Kaczynski 04475-046 The "Unabomber"
David Lane (deceased) 12873-057 Neo-Nazi leader, involvement in the murder of Alan Berg
Juan Matta-Ballesteros 37671-133 Drug trafficker, co-conspirator in the Enrique Camarena case
Zacarias Moussaoui 51427-054 Conspirator in the September 11, 2001 attacks
Terry Nichols 08157-031 Oklahoma City bombing conspirator
Richard Colvin Reid 24079-038 Islamic terrorist, nicknamed the "Shoe Bomber"
Eric Robert Rudolph 18282-058 Convicted of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing
Samuel Wells (escaped) 11545-092 Drug trafficker and organized crime figure
Dwight York 17911-054 Leader of the Nuwaubians; convicted for child molestation, racketeering and financial reporting charges
Ramzi Yousef 03911-000 Islamic terrorist, 1993 World Trade Center bombing
Timothy McVeigh (deceased) 12076-064 Oklahoma City bombing (executed on June 11, 2001)
Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff 26301-053 Drug trafficker and organized crime figure
H. Rap Brown 99974-555 Civil rights activist convicted of murdering a Fulton County, Georgia, deputy Sheriff
Andrew Fastow 14343-179 Former Enron CFO convicted of securities fraud, located in minimum security tract
Thomas Silverstein 14634-116 Convicted of murdering Federal Correctional Officer Merle E. Clutts
Luis Felipe 14067-074 Founder of the New York chapter of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation
Howard Mason 24651-053 Drug trafficker who ordered the murder of police officer Eddie Byrne
Barry Mills 14559-116 Leading member of the Aryan Brotherhood
Charles Harrelson (deceased) 02582-016 Texan hitman, convicted of murdering federal judge, father of actor Woody Harrelson
Jose Padilla 20796-424 Convicted of aiding terrorists
Michael Swango 08352-424 American surgeon and serial killer; convicted of 3 fatal poisonings, with allegedly many more unproven
Mahmud Abouhalima 28064-054 Islamic Mujahideen leader, 1993 World Trade Center bombing implication and conviction
Robert Hanssen 48551-083 Former senior FBI agent serving life for espionage

External links

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