Prolonged Isolation, Insanity, Feces-Throwing: Guantanamo Compares Favorably With ADX


Ramzi Yousef, the man who plotted the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, is imprisoned here. As are 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynsk; and Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber”.

The United States Penitentiary Administrative-Maximum Facility‘s (in Florence, Colorado) purpose is unmistakably clear: ADX, the nation’s most secure Supermax prison, is built to make the worst criminals in the US “disappear”… As well as the people they’d rather keep quiet.

Now that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, has been formally sentenced to death, his final destination will be in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On Thursday, he was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, one of several correctional facilities in the city, including Supermax.

Transporting the inmates to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” takes place in style, via special vehicles and even Black Hawk helicopters.

Heavily armed patrols cruise the enormous complex. A dozen imposing gun towers rise above squat brick buildings. Walls topped with razor wire partially block the snow-capped mountains.

As soon as they come through the door … you see it in their faces,” former ADX warden Robert Hood, said to CNN. “That’s when it really hits you. You’re looking at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in the backdrop. When you get inside, that is the last time you will ever see it.

The Supermax is life after death,” said Hood, who served as ADX warden from 2002 to 2005. “It’s long term… In my opinion, it’s far much worse than death.

Can’t Say Much About The Amenities… But The Service!

A life of solitary confinement is lived by MOST inmates: a large percentage of the more than 400 inmates spend as much as 23 hours a day alone in 7-by-12-foot concrete cells. Their meals are slid through small slits in the doors, and their bed is a concrete slab dressed with a thin mattress and blankets.

The architecture of the building is the control,” Hood said.

You’re designing it so the inmates can’t see the sky. Intentionally. You’re putting up wires so helicopters can’t land.

Inmates have little contact outside of guards and prison staff. When taken outside of their cells inmates must wear leg irons, handcuffs and stomach chains, whilst also being escorted by guards. During the recreation hour the inmates are granted, they spend their time in an outdoor cage slightly larger than the prison cells. Inside the cage, only the sky is visible.

You’re passing hundreds, hundreds of cameras as metal doors are sliding open and closed,” Hood said.

What Your Average Day of Life-after-death Is Like In The H(ell)-Unit

Radios and black-and-white televisions offer the only entertainment available: religious, educational and general interest programs. Their mail and conversations are scrutinized 24/7, the current ADX warden, John Oliver, had testified at Tsarnaev’s sentencing hearing.

Tsarnaev will likely join the Special Security Unit, also called the H-Unit, where terrorists are held. These cells are reserved for inmates with DOJ-imposed “Special Administrative Measures” intended to strictly limit all communications with the outside world— gotta keep those terrorists quiet.

Only members of a prisoner’s legal team and immediate family are permitted to visit. During these visits prisoners sit on one side of a glass window, whilst the visitor sits on the other. They speak over telephones. All personal conversations are monitored, which means family conversations are monitored. But, apparently, legal conversations and correspondence with attorneys are considered privileged and private.

Going To ‘The Supermax’ – A Dummy’s Guide

“ADX itself has … become almost entirely a ‘lock-down’ facility in which prisoners are locked in solitary cells for all but a few hours a week,” Amnesty International said in a 2014 report titled “Entombed: Isolation in the U.S. federal prison system.”

The Supermax is home to the prison system’s most violent inmates as well as convicted terrorists.

They’ve been in jail. They’ve been in prison. They’ve killed staff. They’ve killed a visitor,” Hood said. “They’ve earned, if you will, the right to go to Supermax. … These are terrorists. These are disruptive gang members. They’re spies.” Contextualizing violent murderers with spies; rather odd, don’t you think?

Solitary Confinement Leads To Insanity In 110% Of Cases

A 2012 class action suit against the Bureau of Prisons said “years of isolation, with no direct, unrestrained contact with other human beings” leave some ADX inmates — particularly those with serious mental illness — with “a fundamental loss of even basic social skills and adaptive behaviors.” They “predictably find themselves paranoid about the motives and intentions of others.”

Once placed into unrestrained contact with other, similarly impaired and paranoid men, the stress on prisoners — even those with no mental illness — can be extreme. Assaults and stabbings are common.” So, these men are put  into boxes on their own, they go insane and stab people- and that is the justification for putting them in boxes?

Many ADX prisoners “interminably wail, scream and bang on the walls of their cells,” the lawsuit said. “Some mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils, and whatever other objects they can obtain. A number swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects.

Some inmates have “delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads,” the court documents said. Others spread feces, other human waste and body fluids throughout their cells or hurl it at correctional officers.

I do know that when you put a person in a box for 23 hours a day and you tell them that’s the rest of your life, that each person has their own coping skills,” Hood said.

When you see a person disrobing, throwing feces at a staff member going by — is that mental illness? Is that an issue where they’re self-destructing?

At least six prisoners have committed suicide since ADX opened in 1994, the lawsuit said. Most of the suicides involved prisoners hanging themselves with bed sheets.

Though I know that I want to live and have always been a survivor, I have often wished for death,” Thomas Silverstein, confined for more than 30 years in isolation, including nine in ADX, was quoted as saying in the Amnesty International report. “I know, though, that I don’t want to die. What I want is a life in prison that I can fill with some meaning.

Laura Rovner, a University of Denver College of Law professor who has represented ADX prisoners, said reports of conditions at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba compare favorably with some conditions at ADX.

For many people, being confined at ADX in what will amount to a life sentence there really is kind of a form of living death,” she said. “It just takes everything away from you. Your existence is limited to the four walls of this small cell and frankly not much else.

The mentally ill and younger inmates are particularly vulnerable, Rovner said.

This is a person who’s going to be vulnerable, who’s going to feel the isolation in ways that are more acute,” she said of Tsarnaev. “He’s presumably going to be alive for a long time. He’s looking at spending potentially at least the next 50 years in isolation. It’s almost unfathomable.

Prisoners in the H-Unit rarely have access to less-restricted general population units, according to Amnesty International. In 2008, the prison instituted a step-down program for the H-Unit. The program consists of three phases which last for a minimum of one year — with each step providing limited privileges.

If you’re the Unabomber and you have an advanced degree … and know multiple languages, you’re going to sit there and read most of the day,” Hood said of Kaczynski, who has been described by acquaintances as brilliant.

But many of the inmates do not have the coping skills. They don’t have the reading ability. They don’t have the ability to be litigious. So there’s no outlet; that’s most likely the inmate who is going to throw feces at you.

Prisoner advocates have found that some inmates, despite good conduct, spend years in H-Unit without progressing to the next phase because the Special Administrative Measures were not modified. More likely, they just wanted to keep them quiet. Forever.

Well, judging by the recent push to call domestic miscreants “terrorists”, one wonders how long it would be before prisons like these start getting filled beyond capacity…. Intentionally silencing and depriving inmates of all sensory stimulation, and ultimately driving them insane, sounds like something you’d see in an Orwellian world.

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  1. It’s not as bad as it seems, I was there since 2006-2013, and as long as you have a daily routine, days actually go by rather quickly.

  2. I spent 3 and a half years in prison in southern Africa, and i can tell you this prison, is like a motel, compared to what i went thru!

  3. spent six months in solitary hear in south Africa thy charge you diet every 7 days ! in the 1980s take out the salt and sugar an only mazel meal for 7 Day ! Sleep on the cold floor with one blanket one shower a week !

  4. fine there are probably worse facilities around but the point surely is the US sees itself as some sort of moral compass for the world, problem is the examples they set. and like guantanamo this facility is pure evil


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