The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX) is an American federal prison in Fremont County
near Florence, Colorado
. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons
, a division of the United States Department of Justice
. USP ADX Florence, which opened in 1994, is classed as a supermax
or "control unit" prison, thus providing a higher, more controlled level of custody than a maximum security prison
. USP ADX Florence forms part of the Federal Correctional Complex, Florence
(FCC Florence), which is situated on of land and houses different facilities with varying degrees of security, including the United States Penitentiary, Florence High
USP ADX Florence was commissioned as the Federal Bureau of Prisons
needed a unit designed specifically for the secure housing of those prisoners most capable of extreme, sustained violence toward staff or other inmates. , there are 359 prisoners. They are confined 23 hours per day in single cells with facilities made of poured, reinforced concrete to deter self-harm, and are under 24-hour supervision, carried out intensively with high staff-inmate ratios. Phones are generally banned, and only limited broadcast entertainment is permitted. After three years in maximum confinement, some prisoners may be transferred to a less restrictive prison. The aim is to encourage "reasonably peaceful behavior" from the most violent "career" prisoners.
The institution is unofficially known as ADX Florence or the Alcatraz
of the Rockies.
It is part of the Federal Correctional Complex, Florence
, is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons
(BOP), a division of the United States Department of Justice
. The complex also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, , houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.
USP ADX Florence houses male inmates in the federal prison system deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control, including prisoners whose escape would pose a serious threat to national security. The BOP does not have a designated supermax facility for women. Women in the BOP system 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
[Bosworth, Mary. ]
The U.S. Federal Prison System
'. SAGE, 2002
Retrieved from Google Books on October 14, 2010. , .
In 1983, Thomas Silverstein
and Clayton Fountain
, members of the Aryan Brotherhood
, fatally stabbed correctional officers Merle Clutts and Robert Hoffman at the United States Penitentiary, Marion
. The stabbings took place only a few hours apart and were blamed on inadequate prison design.
Federal Bureau of Prisons director Norman Carlson
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. Under his guidance, the United States Penitentiary, Marion was operated in "permanent lockdown" for the next two decades. It became a model for the design of ADX as a control unit prison. Carlson said that such a prison would hold criminals desperate enough to murder corrections officers or other inmates in the hopes of being sentenced to death. He argued that as draconian as these measures were, they were the only way to deal with inmates who have "absolutely no concern for human life."
USP ADX Florence opened in November 30, 1994. Some residents of rural Fremont County, Colorado
had 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 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.
During the 2020 COVID-19
virus outbreak, USP ADX Florence was considered safe due in part to the extreme social distancing already practiced. By January 11, 2021, BOP data shows no active cases among prisoners, but three recovered inmates and 28 active staff infections.
The supermax unit at USP ADX Florence houses about 400 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.
It is designed for 490 inmates but has never been at full capacity.
The facility is best known for housing inmates who have been deemed too dangerous, too high-profile, or too great a security risk for a maximum-security prison. For example, Joseph Romano was sentenced to life in federal prison for plotting to murder the judge and federal prosecutor who helped sentence him to 15 years in prison for masterminding a coin fraud operation. While in prison, he plotted to murder an undercover officer who had taken part in the investigation. When this came to light, Romano was transferred to USP ADX Florence.
The majority of current inmates, however, have been placed there because each has an extensive history in other prisons of committing violent crimes, including murder, against corrections officers and fellow inmates. These inmates are kept in administrative segregation. They are confined in a single-person cell for 23 hours a day and are removed under restraint (handcuffed, shackled, or both); their one hour out of their cell may occur at any time of the day or night. The hour outside of the cell is for exercise and a phone call if they have earned the privilege. Their diet is restricted to ensure that the food cannot be used to harm themselves or to create unhygienic conditions in their cell. Some cells have showers which further reduces the amount of handling of inmates that correctional officers have to perform.
After at least one year, depending on their conduct, inmates are gradually allowed out for longer periods. The long-term goal is to keep them at USP ADX Florence for no more than three years and then to transfer them to a less restrictive prison to serve the remainder of their sentences. According to a 1998 report in the ''San Francisco Chronicle
'', USP ADX Florence's main purpose is to "try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners".
One cell block at Florence is known as "Bombers Row" because four notable terrorists-- three of whom are domestic terrorists-- reside there: Terry Nichols
, Ramzi Yousef
, Eric Rudolph
, and Ted Kaczynski
Despite the extreme security measures to deter disruptive, violent, and dangerous behavior among inmates, there has been one murder at ADX. Silvestre Rivera and Richard Santiago were both charged with the first degree murder of Manuel Torrez, a high level member of the Mexican Mafia
. Left alone with no guard supervision in the prison yard on the morning of April 21, 2005, Rivera and Santiago were videotaped brutally beating and stomping Torrez to death. Rivera pled not guilty due to self-defense. Prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against Rivera and Santiago, but they were both given life sentences for the murders. Today, Santiago remains incarcerated at ADX, while Rivera is currently serving his life sentence in adjacent USP Florence - High
In January 2021 a British magistrate ruled that Julian Assange
could not be extradited to the US on the grounds that Assange would likely be housed at ADX where there was a high risk he would commit suicide due to the conditions there.
USP ADX Florence is a complex located at 5880 Highway 67, with a Florence, Colorado postal address, about south of Denver
and south of Colorado Springs
. It is part of the Federal Correctional Complex, Florence (FCC Florence) which consists of three correctional facilities, each with a different security rating.
The majority of the facility is above ground, with the exception of a subterranean corridor which links cellblocks to the lobby. Each cell has a desk, stool, and 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 a television that shows recreational, educational, and religious programming.
The by windows are designed to prevent inmates from knowing their specific location within the complex. They can see only the sky and roof through them, so it is 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 large enough only for a prisoner to walk 10 steps in a straight line or 31 steps in a circle. Correctional officers generally deliver food to the cells. Inmates transferred to USP ADX Florence 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", which closes every door in the facility, should an escape attempt be suspected. Pressure pads and razor wire fences surround the perimeter, which is patrolled by heavily armed officers.
The Bureau of Prisons allowed the media to take a guided tour of USP ADX Florence 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. ''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 received far less criticism than comparable facilities at the state level, which tend to suffer from over-population, low staff-to-inmate ratios, and security issues. 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."
In 2012, eleven inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Bureau of Prisons in ''Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons''.] The suit alleged chronic abuse and failure to properly diagnose prisoners who are seriously mentally ill. At the time of the lawsuit, at least six inmates had allegedly died by suicide (a seventh did after the original lawsuit was filed, and an amended filing added him to the case.) That number may be underestimated because suicide attempts are common, and many succeed.
Critics claim the use of extended confinement in solitary cells adversely affects prisoners' mental health; numerous studies support this conclusion. As of March 2015, settlement negotiations were underway with the help of a federal magistrate. Some changes have already been made by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). [USP ADX Florence Contact Information]
" Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
Suicides at the prison
At least eight inmates have died or are suspected of dying by suicide at the facility.
Notable current inmates
This list contains foreign citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests. All sentences are without parole.
This list contains U.S. citizens, regardless of origin, who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.
Organized crime figures
* List of U.S. federal prisons
* 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.
* Special Handling Unit, a supermax prison operated by Corrections Canada
* List of former inmates at USP Florence ADMAX
* Vick, Karl.
Isolating the Menace in a Sterile Supermax
. ''The Washington Post''. Sunday September 30, 2007.
Official website of Federal Bureau of Prisons
section on USP ADX Florence
Information on visiting is on the linke
Supermax: A Clean Version of Hell
. CBS News. October 14, 2007. Updated on June 19, 2009.
Category:1994 establishments in Colorado
Category:Buildings and structures in Fremont County, Colorado
Category:Government buildings completed in 1994
Category:Prisons in Colorado
Category:Towers in Colorado
Category:United States Penitentiaries