The United States Penitentiary, Florence High (USP Florence High) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Colorado. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. USP Florence High is part of the Federal Correctional Complex, Florence (FCC Florence), which is situated on of land and houses different facilities with varying degrees of security. It is named "Florence High" in order to differentiate it from the United States Penitentiary, Florence ADMAX, the federal supermax prison located in the same complex. FCC Florence is located in Fremont County, Colorado, south of Denver.


USP Florence High was built in 1993 in response to the growing need for a place to house high-security federal inmates. It was designed by DLR Group, an architectural firm specializing in correctional facilities. Before the complex was built, the city of Florence was experiencing an economic crisis with an unemployment rate of 17%. When the citizens were polled by mail about building the complex in Florence, 97% of respondents were in favor of the project. It was estimated that the Florence Federal Correctional Complex was going to provide about 1,000 temporary jobs and 900 permanent jobs. In anticipation of these jobs the community raised $160,000 to purchase the needed to build the prisons.


USP Florence High housed 816 male inmates as of December 2019, and is about . A perimeter fence, seven guard towers, and a patrol road ensure the security of the prison.Bosworth, Mary (ed.) (2005). ''Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities'', Vol. 2. pp. 1115–1116. The prison includes health services, educational program areas, visitation, laundry, a barbershop, commissary, chapel, Special Housing Unit (SHU), and an exercise area. The prison also contains a step-down unit for inmates of ADX Florence. Inmates will still spend roughly 22 hours of their day in their cells, however, they are kept in a less restrictive environment in which interaction among inmates is acceptable and encouraged. From there, they will either be transferred to the general population unit in Florence High or to a different federal prison.

Notable incidents

In 2000, seven federal correctional officers who the union called "The Cowboys" were charged with committing misconduct which occurred between January 1995 and July 1997, which included beating and choking handcuffed inmates, mixing waste into the inmates' food, and threatening other officers who objected to their actions. The case went to trial in 2003 and three of the officers, Mike Lavallee, Rod Schultz and Robert Verbickas, were convicted of violating the civil rights of inmate Pedro Castillo by beating him while he was in restraints. Lavallee and Schultz were also convicted of engaging in a conspiracy to commit civil rights violations. All three were sentenced to prison terms.

1999 Inmate murder

On October 10, 1999, inmates William Concepcion Sablan and Rudy Cabrera Sablan were accused of the murder of fellow inmate Joey Jesus Estrella. The three inmates were seen drinking "hooch" together and they were heard fighting throughout the night. Both William and Rudy Sablan were found with the disembowled corpse of Estrella in their cell the next morning. Prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against both William and Rudy Sablan, who are cousins. However, due to William Sablan's extensive record of mental illness and brain damage, they were both given life sentences for the murder and moved into ADX Florence. Today William Sablan is housed at USP Allenwood and Rudy Sablan is housed at USP Hazleton.

2008 Inmate murder

In 2008, inmate Gary Douglas Watland, who was serving a combined 55-year state sentence for the murder of a friend and attempting to escape the Maine State Prison, was accused of killing fellow inmate Mark Baker, a member of the Nazi Lowriders gang. Watland snuck up on Baker while he was playing poker and stabbed him in the neck with a homemade knife. Watland stated the attack was a "kill or be killed situation", as he had recently come out of the closet in prison. Baker's gang was known to attack homosexuals in prison. Watland subsequently accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is currently serving his sentence at ADX Florence.

2008 Inmate riot

On April 20, 2008 a massive 30-minute riot occurred between inmates in the recreation yard, during which several inmates were stabbed with homemade knives known as "shanks." Correction officers who were posted on watch towers shot and killed two of the armed inmates. The incident began after white supremacist prisoners celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday began yelling racial epithets at black prisoners. The white supremacists were drinking hooch, a form of homemade wine, and were armed with rocks and improvised weapons. Approximately 200 prisoners were involved in the melee.

Notable inmates (current and former)

{|class="wikitable sortable" |- !width=12%|Inmate Name !width=10%|Register Number !width=5%|Photo !width=23%|Status !width=55%|Details |- | style="text-align:center;"| Ross Ulbricht | style="text-align:center;"
| style="text-align:center;"| | Transferred to USP Tucson. | Convicted in 2015 for operating Silk Road marketplace web site. |- | style="text-align:center;"| Gary Ridgway | style="text-align:center;"
| style="text-align:center;"| |Transferred to Washington State Penitentiary. |Known as the Green River Killer, Ridgway committed murder, rape and necrophilia in the Seattle and Tacoma area. Ridgway spent May 2015 to October 2015 in USP Florence to feel safe in General Population. In 2015 transferred back to Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla |- | style="text-align:center;"| Ronell Wilson | style="text-align:center;"
| style="text-align:center;"| |Serving a life sentence. |Gang leader in Staten Island, New York; murdered NYPD Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews, who were conducting a sting operation to buy an illegal gun in 2003. |- |style="text-align:center;"|Michael Finton |style="text-align:center;"|17031-026 | |style="text-align:center;"|Serving a 28 year sentence, scheduled for release on 2034 |Convicted for attempt to murder, with malice aforethought, at least one US federal officer and employee and an attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction against property owned by the US. |- | style="text-align:center;"| Osiel Cárdenas Guillén | style="text-align:center;"
| |Transferred to USP Terre Haute. |Succeeded Juan García Ábrego as leader of the Gulf Cartel; extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in 2007 and pleaded guilty to threatening to murder U.S. law enforcement agents, drug trafficking and money laundering. |- | style="text-align:center;"| Chevie Kehoe | style="text-align:center;"
| | Transferred to USP McCreary | White supremacist convicted on charges of racketeering, racketeering in aid of murder and robbery conspiracy in connection to the kidnapping, torture and murders of William and Nancy Mueller and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. Co-defendant Daniel Lewis Lee was executed for the murders at United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute on July 14, 2020. Transferred into Florence High from ADX Florence in 2019. |- | style="text-align:center;"| Perry Roark | style="text-align:center;"
| |Transferred to ADX Florence |One of the founders of the Dead Man Incorporated prison gang. In 2013, Roark pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy, murder and trafficking charges related to running the gang alongside members Bryan Jordan and James Sweeney. Roark and Sweeney were subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Both Sweeney and Roark were serving their life terms at ADX Florence until Roark was transferred to Florence High in 2019. As of November 2020, Roark is back at ADX. |- | style="text-align:center;"| {{sortname|O. G.|Mack | style="text-align:center;"
| style="text-align:center;"| | {{hs|2045-02-04Serving a 50-year sentence under his legal name of Omar Portee; scheduled for release on March 3, 2044. | Founder of the United Blood Nation gang; convicted in 2002 of racketeering and murder conspiracy, as well as narcotics and weapons charges.{{cite news| url=https://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/15/nyregion/founder-of-east-coast-bloods-is-given-50-years.html | work=The New York Times | first=Benjamin | last=Weiser | title=Founder of East Coast Bloods Is Given 50 Years | date=2003-04-15

See also

{{Portal|United States|Politics|Colorado *List of U.S. federal prisons *Federal Bureau of Prisons *Incarceration in the United States {{-



External links

USP Florence High
{{Federal Bureau of Prisons {{DEFAULTSORT:Florence Category:Buildings and structures in Fremont County, Colorado Florence High Category:Prisons in Colorado Category:1993 establishments in Colorado Category:Prison uprisings in the United States