Why is ADX Florence the Most Secure Supermax Prison?
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The primary measure of a prison’s security is its ability to keep inmates from escaping, but what about keeping guards safe? What about inmate safety? ADX Florence is an epitome of these; it is the most secure supermax prison in America. It’s located high up on a Colorado mountain range, 2 hours from the nearest town.
It has been home to many of the nation’s worst serial killers and terrorists. It has even been said that those who enter never leave alive because there are several execution protocols that are used on inmates. Let’s have a look at why ADX Florence is considered the most secure facility in America, as well as some of its most notorious inmates.
The Facility’s Location
ADX Florence is located in a remote area with no distractions for inmates. As a result, they are given access to work and educational programs that can help them learn new skills. All of these opportunities must be approved by management before prisoners can partake in them. These programs are important in that they help keep everyone occupied which minimizes their idle time.
Additionally, the facility is surrounded by miles upon miles of empty terrain. The rough terrains discourage anyone from escaping.
The facility has solid concrete walls without windows or doors opening onto a common area. This layout makes it impossible for prisoners to hide from the authorities. There are just small holes in the wall that serve as air vents. Second, all movement within the facility takes place on camera via computer-controlled motorized systems. As a result, nothing can be passed between inmates covertly.
Let’s assume some people manage to smuggle in some contrabands into the facility. In such a case, there’s no way they can get through metal detectors at entrances and exits nor avoid body scanners before entering/exiting each unit every time they leave or enter their cell block.
Every cell block has a special design to stop inmates from communicating with other people in the prison. Its design is in such a way that none of the cells faces each other. Additionally, their doors contain thick steel covers, which can be shut at all times, even when prisoners are out of their cells for exercise periods or showers.
Moreover, ADX Florence is one of only a handful of facilities in the United States, with an entire unit dedicated to housing inmates in control units. All control units prisoners here have such designation due to their continued and unrepentant violence within correctional settings. This means that they’ve already proven themselves time and again by breaking basic prison rules. Such rules include those involving weapons, drugs or other kinds of contraband too.
These control unitshave a design such that inmates cannot see anything apart from blank walls. In addition, they’re locked inside the tiny solitary confinement cells for 23 hours a day. The only reprieve is unless they’re allowed into recreational areas specially designed for “high risk” offenders such as these ones.
Inmates who pose less threat may live in less tight conditions within their one-person cells.
No Access to Radios or Electronic Devices
Inmates living here have absolutely no access to radios or any kind of electronic device whatsoever. They cannot have access to a TV set in their cells either. The reason is that ADX Florence’s focus is on ensuring inmates don’t hear, see or read anything at all, which staff members and officials deem as ‘contraband’. In fact, the mail policy of the facility is very strict compared to that of other facilities.
A Single Hour outside Each Day
Every prisoner gets precisely one hour outdoors for fresh air and sunshine per day. That means they must remain in their cells if they’re not attending an approved educational program during that time or working on the grounds.
Additionally, the guards do not easily allow inmates to go for a stroll unless they have formal authorization from staff members beforehand.
Furthermore, inmates are usually under restraints while outside their cells. These restraints may be quite harsh, with chains on an inmate’s feet and wrists. Correctional officers then shackle them to a belt around the waist. Alternatively, the prisoner’s shackled wrists are sometimes further constrained within a black box, depending on the inmate’s security level.
Heavy Restrictions on Visits and Phone Calls
Prison officials heavily restrict all visits with friends or family members. This restriction is necessary to ensure that there’s no chance of inmates engaging in any criminal activity through their visitors. There are only two hours per week which the facility has set aside for visitation purposes.
Moreover, the facility’s leadership does not accept any recording devices, cell phones, cameras as well as weapons into this correctional facility. This restriction is regardless of whether it is thestaff members or visitors themselves who are carrying them. Anyone caught taking contraband inside will have it confiscated immediately upon discovery before facing the associated consequences available within administrative policy guidelines.
Strict Control over Mail Correspondence
Mails are also subject to strict control measures, just like phone calls. Are you worried about the possibility of inmates being able to circulate any illicit information through their mail correspondence? Well, there’s a good chance that it won’t happen here because everything is under monitoring and inspection for signs of illegal content before its delivery into an inmate’s hands. In addition, the authorities also scan and review legal mails. However, they must do so in the presence of the receiver inmate.
A Focus on De-Escalation
The objective here is to ensure that inmates remain calm and focused during their stay. This reduces the chances of any potential disputes or brawls, which could lead to injuries by way of violent confrontations. However, ADX Florence has a team ready at hand (staff members) if such acts happen. These staff members have special training in conflict resolution tactics and experience dealing with high-risk offenders every day.
Inmates spend most of the time in their tiny concrete cells unless allowed out for recreation activities. Such activities include outdoor exercise periods, where correctional officers must accompany them and indoor rec rooms where high-risk offenders can play pool and read books and magazines. However, correctional officers have to screen these materials first.
Moreover, inmates need clearance from a correctional officer before accessing any educational materials or engaging in any recreational activity. This is because the facility considers all of those activities as privileges within this prison.
For some prisoners, the only way to leave their cell block is for medical reasons. In such a situation, correctional officers place them in a restraint chair and wheel them out on a gurney through locked doors. Additionally, there is a high restriction to opening these doors where staff must input codes into an electric locking system.
ADX Florence also offers library services. It contains thousands of books where select offenders can read what interests them the most. The staff members and correctional officers screen all books beforehand to ensure they don’t contain anything close to a security risk. Such materials include maps, blueprints or other information an inmate may try to use for escaping/unlawful behavior within the prison facility.
12 Guard Towers and a Remote-Controlled Perimeter Fence
The first line of defense in the facility is the 12 guard towers. They are available at various strategic locations around this prison to monitor inmates from above throughout their daily activities. In addition, there are two separate fences that keep everyone in and unauthorized personnel out. One of the fences consists of 15 individual strands of electric wire, while the other has bollards infused with cement. This offers an extra bit of protection against any attempt by someone trying to climb over them.
Guard Dogs Patrolling the Perimeter
The facility also has guard dogs patrolling the perimeter alongside their handlers. These dogs have high training to apprehend any unauthorized person who may try to gain entry into this prison or anyone who may try to escape. This is just another addition to the defense, which makes it even harder for anyone with criminal intentions to do so successfully.
Correctional Officers Frequently Check Cells and Rooms
Guards patrol through each cell block frequently throughout the day as well as at night. These patrols provide an added level of security that most correctional facilities don’t have. They’re always checking every inmate’s living quarters (cells) for contraband or other illicit material. They also make sure no one is planning to harm themselves or anyone else too.
Random callouts are regular at the facility. These callouts are necessary to ensure that no one escapes or plans to escape from the ADX. The facility also follows the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) “Random Callout Policy.” This policy requires all inmates to stay in their cells until staff members can complete the count.
One of the ways that staff members deliver food to inmates is via a slot in the door. This ensures there’s no opportunity for any other unauthorized interactions between the inmates and the guards. The guards deliver these meals on carts and trays. These trays have dividers between each compartment. As a result, it’s impossible to plant any contraband surreptitiously. In addition, all utensils are plastic and come in individual wrappings. The making of the plates is important as it prevents self-harm from the inmates.
Inmate Access to Money
Inmates can’t have cash in hand. Everything from purchasing commissary items through the approved catalog system happens via a state account that holds their earnings. Inmates can keep track of everything going on with these accounts through various ways.
For instance, there are monthly statements that inmates can request if they wish. These statements give them detailed info about all transactions within those specific time frames. Additionally, they get to know how much has been set aside for fees such as restitution payments. Inmate accounts also have limitations too such as no more than $320 worth of funds per month.
The inmate restriction from dealing with physical money goes a long way in maintaining the facility’s security. This is because inmates do not have money in their possession to use as bribes to the guards for smuggling contrabands.
Infamous Inmates at ADX Florence
Several notorious inmates have been put away in the United States’ most secure federal prison for a reason. These inmates have committed some of the worst crimes, mostly against humanity. Among the most infamous prisoners to ever grace the walls of this prison are the following:
Terry L. Nichols
Terry L. Nichols and Timothy J. McVeigh met in the late 1980s while serving in the US army. They had similar ideologies where they even became passionate anti-government conspiracy theorists. They did extensive research on bombs and the manufacturing process. Afterward, the two bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Their explosives eventually killed 168 individuals, including 19 small children and newborns.
Nichols got several life sentences at ADX Florence for his part in the attack. On the other hand, McVeigh faced execution by lethal injection at USP Terre Haute in 2001.
Robert P. Hanssen
He worked for the FBI for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001. Robert took part in illegal activities during his tenure. Such acts include selling thousands of sensitive data to Soviet and Russian intelligence. He made a lot of money from these activities, collecting more than $1million. Robert pleaded guilty to the espionage charges and received a sentence of15 consecutive life sentences at ADX Florence. Hanssen’s betrayal is the biggest intelligence debacle in the history of the United States.
Ramzi Ahmed Yousef
This notorious criminal was part of the bombers of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. This day still lingers on people’s minds due to the 1,300-pound nitrate-hydrogen gas explosion, which killed six persons and wounded several others.
Police officers arrested him in 1995 after fleeing to Pakistan. The judge gave him a life sentence, plus 240 years due to the various crime counts.
The bombing had seven culprits. However, the officials only apprehended six of them. Abdul Rahman Yasin is still on the run, and the FBI has offered a reward on any lead that will result in his capture.