ADC Florence is the name of the American federal prison in Fremont County near Florence, Colorado. Operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the ADC Florence opened in 1994. It is classified as supermax prison or control unit prison. That means the prison provides a higher and more controlled level of custody than a maximum security prison.
While it is a federal prison, ADC Florence houses inmates sentenced by state courts. As of July 2021, there are 334 prisons in ADC Florence, many of whom are high-profile criminals and famous criminals.
Here are some things you need to know about this escape proof prison in Florence, Colorado.
The Escape Proof Prison
There is a reason why authorities moved El Chapo to this prison. He has escaped prison two times while in Mexico, once in 2015 and once in 2001. But ADC is different, the prison has a reputation for being escape proof.
With a nickname Alcatraz of the Rockies, the ADC Florence has never seen an escape. No person has escaped the facility.
Located in the high desert, the prison is two hours south of Denver. Inmates in the prison are housed in soundproof, 7 by 12 foot cells for 23 hours of the day in permanent lockdown. They have no contact with other inmates.
Each cell contains a bunk, desk, stool, and shelf made of concrete and a steel sink and toilet. Inmates can see outside of their cell only through a single window, which is three feet high and four inches wide.
The prison was specifically designed to keep every occupant in near total solitary confinement. More on the design later on.
Robert Hood, who served as warden from 2002 to 2005, described the life in the prison as “worse than death”. He says, “As soon as they come through the door … you see it in their faces. 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. It’s long term. In my opinion, it’s far much worse than death.”
High profile inmates
Because ADC Florence is an escape proof prison, it is a home to many high profile inmates. It was designed to house the worst of the worst. Some of them include the following.
Terry Nichols, domestic terrorist, famous for the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. He currently serves 161 consecutive life sentences. His partner in crime, Timothy J. McVeigh, was executed by lethal injection in 2001.
Robert P. Hanssen is a soviet spy, he serves 15 consecutive life sentences. He was an FBI agent for 25 years, from 1976 to 2001, but during that time, he sold thousands of classified documents to Soviet and Russian intelligence. Some estimates say he earned more than $1.4 million before getting caught. He is known as “the worst intelligence disaster in US history”.
Ramzi Ahmed Yousef is one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. He serves life plus 240 years in prison.
Richard Lee McNair, the master escapist, serves a life sentence. He was convicted of murder, attempted murder, and burglary.
Ted John Kaczynski is the domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber. He serves eight life sentences in ADC Florence.
Famous for its harsh conditions, the prison keeps prisoners in solitary confinement for 24 hours per day. Prisoners are allowed out into a bigger cell with vaulted ceilings for one hour per day. This room is known as the “empty swimming pool”. The room has a 4 inch by 4 foot skylight as the only window. This room prevents prisoners from knowing where they are. And they spend time alone there as well.
For the first three years, they are not allowed to come into contact with other prisoners at any time. It applies to anywhere on the premise. But over time, with good behavior, prisoners can earn more outside time.
Cell furniture includes desk, stool, and a bed, each constructed of poured concrete. Toilets can shut off if plugged and the showers are on timers. Rooms can have mirrors, lights, and radios. In some cases, even a television, but that applies only for privileged inmates based on good behavior.
There is no mess hall. Instead, guards deliver food to each prisoner by hand. There are numerous motion detectors and cameras, as well as 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors.
Additional levels of security include laser beams, pressure pads, and attack dogs that guard the area outside the fences of the prison.
Generally speaking, the prison operates under the strategy of sensory deprivation and solitude. They leave inmates to their own thoughts, which sometimes leads to hallucination, memory loss, and irritable behavior.
The Design of the prison
We said ADX Florence is an escape proof prison. And it is all about the design. The prison is literally built into the side of a mountain with robust security infrastructure. There are 12 gun towers surrounding the compound.
Cells are soundproof, which prevents inmates from communicating with others in their block by tapping codes or talking. There is only small slot in the door that allows for food delivery by guards. There is no little to no interaction between guards and inmates.
And the clever design of the windows make prisoners look even more desperate. Cells have 4-inch wide window. The angled slit cuts through the thick prison walls in such a way that prisoners cannot understand their own location in the complex.
As some people say it, you cannot see nothing. There is no highway in distance, and no sky. The minute you get into the prison, you know you won’t see any of that, for years and years to come.