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The United States Penitentiary, Florence Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX) is an American federal prison in unincorporated Fremont County near Florence, Colorado. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. USP Florence ADMAX, 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 Florence ADMAX forms part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FCC Florence), which is situated on 49 acres (20 ha) of land and houses different facilities with varying degrees of security, including the United States Penitentiary, Florence High.

USP Florence ADMAX 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. As of November 2020, there are 361 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.[3]

Function

The institution is unofficially known as ADX Florence, or the "Alcatraz of the Rockies".[4] 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. The complex also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, as of February 2019, houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.

USP Florence ADMAX houses 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. 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.[5]

History

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.[6]

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, Marion Penitentiary was operated in "permanent lockdown" for the next two decades. It became a model for the design of ADX as a control unit prison.[7][8] 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."[6]

USP Florence ADMAX opened in November 1994.[9] Some residents of rural Fremont County, Colorado[10] 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 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.[11]

During the 2020 COVID-19 virus outbreak, USP Florence ADMAX was considered safe due in part to the extreme social distancing already practiced.[12][13] As of April 12, 2020, no cases had been reported at the facility.

Inmate population

The supermax unit at USP Florence ADMAX houses about 400 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.[14] It is designed for 490 inmates but has never been at full capacity.[15]

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. After he was found to have plotted while in prison to have an undercover officer murdered who had taken part in the investigation, Romano was transferred to USP Florence ADMAX.[16]

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.[15]

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 Florence ADMAX 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 Florence ADMAX's main purpose is to "try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners".[17]

One cell block at Florence is known as "Bombers Row" because four notable domestic terrorists reside there: Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, Eric Rudolph, and Ted Kaczynski.[18]

Prison facility

USP Florence ADMAX 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. As of November 2020, there are 361 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.[3]

The institution is unofficially known as ADX Florence, or the "Alcatraz of the Rockies".[4] 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. The complex also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, as of February 2019, houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.

USP Florence ADMAX houses 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. 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.[5]

History

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.[6]

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, Marion Penitentiary was operated in "permanent lockdown" for the next two decades. It became a model for the design of ADX as a control unit prison.[7][8] 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."[6]

USP Florence ADMAX opened in November 1994.[9] Some residents of rural Fremont County, ColoradoUSP Florence ADMAX houses 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. 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.[5]

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.[6]

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 hi

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, Marion Penitentiary was operated in "permanent lockdown" for the next two decades. It became a model for the design of ADX as a control unit prison.[7][8] 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."[6]

USP Florence ADMAX opened in November 1994.[9] Some residents of rural Fremont County, Colorado[10] 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 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.[11]

During the 2020 COVID-19 virus outbreak, USP Florence ADMAX was considered safe due in part to the extreme social distancing already practiced.[12][13] As of April 12, 2020, no cases had been reported at the facility.

The supermax unit at USP Florence ADMAX houses about 400 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.[14] It is designed for 490 inmates but has never been at full capacity.[15]

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

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. After he was found to have plotted while in prison to have an undercover officer murdered who had taken part in the investigation, Romano was transferred to USP Florence ADMAX.[16]

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.[15]

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 Florence ADMAX 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 Florence ADMAX's main purpose is to "try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners".[17]

One cell block at Florence is known as "Bombers Row" because four notable domestic terrorists reside there: Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, Eric Rudolph, and Ted Kaczynski.[18]

USP Florence ADMAX is a 37-acre (15 ha) complex located at 5880 Highway 67, Florence, Colorado, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Denver and 40 miles (64 km) south of Colorado Springs.[19] It is part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FFCC) which consists of three correctional facilities, each with a different security rating.[20]

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.[21]

The 4 inches (100 mm) by 4 feet (1.2 m) 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.[22] 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 Florence ADMAX from other prisons can potentially be allowed to eat in a shared dining room.[17]

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 esca

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.[21]

The 4 inches (100 mm) by 4 feet (1.2 m) 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.[22] 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 Florence ADMAX from other prisons can potentially be allowed to eat in a shared dining room.[17]

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 12-foot tall (3.7 m) 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 Florence ADMAX 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.[23] 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."[24]

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."[17]

In 2012, eleven inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Bureau of Prisons in Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons.[25]

In 2012, eleven inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Bureau of Prisons in Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons.[25][26] 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 committed 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.[27]

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).[28][29]

At least eight inmates have committed or are suspected of committing suicide at the facility.

Inmate Register Number Date of death Age Ref
Kevin Lee Wilson 57468-097 June 17, 1999 37
Gregory Britt 12546-083 December 9, 1999 43
La

This list contains foreign citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests. All sentences are without parole.

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Zacarias Moussaoui 51427-054 Zacarias Moussaoui.jpg 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.[33]
Ramzi Yousef 03911-000 Ramzi Yousef.gif
Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 95079-038 Dzhokhar Tsarnayev (crop).jpg Originally sentenced to death on June 24, 2015; sentence overturned by a federal appeals court on July 31, 2020. New penalty-phase trial planned.[53] Dzhokhar planted a pressure cooker bomb at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injured over 250. He was sentenced to death. He was to be transferred to USP Terre Haute in Indiana when his execution date was set, but the death sentence was vacated in July 2020 due to inadequate screening for potential biases among jury pool.
Theodore Kaczynski 04475-046 Theodore Kaczynski.jpg 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.[54][55]
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 2001.[56]
José Padilla 20796-424 José Padilla (prisoner).jpg Serving a 21-year sentence; scheduled for release on February 15, 2026.[57][58] 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 and providing material support to terrorists.[59][60]
Eric Rudolph 18282-058 Eric Rudolph (cropped).png 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; he killed 3 people during the bombing spree.[61][62]
Faisal Shahzad 63510-054 Amd mug faisal-shahzad.jpg 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.[63][64]
Naser Jason Abdo 80882-280 Naser Jason Abdo - U.S. Army photo.jpg 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 in 2011 at a restaurant near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, when it was filled with soldiers.[65][66]
Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh 85795-053 Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh from US Attorney's Office.jpg Serving a 45-year sentence; scheduled for release on August 5, 2053. Houston man (raised in Dubai) who was convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2017 after he attended an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He was charged with material support of terrorism for a planning role in a 2009 attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost. He had reportedly been radicalized by Zarein Ahmedzay, one of the men charged with the 2009 New York City subway bombing plot.

Espionage

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Noshir Gowadia 95518-022 Noshir Gowada1.jpg Serving a 32-year sentence; scheduled for release on January 31, 2033. Former engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense and one of the principal designers 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.[67]
Robert Hanssen 48551-083 Robert Hanssen.jpg 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. This was regarded at the time as the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history. He betrayed dozens of U.S. intelligence agents, several of whom were executed by the Soviets/Russians because of Hanssen's actions.[68][69]
Walter Myers 29796-016