NATIONAL NEWS

No Exit: El Chapo Likely Off To ‘Alcatraz Of The Rockies’

Feb 13, 2019, 2:36 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:15 pm
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known by various aliases including, El Chapo following his extradi...
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known by various aliases including, El Chapo following his extradition to the United States from Mexico. (Photo by Ted Psahos/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ted Psahos/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) — In the world of corrections, there are inmates who pose security risks, and then there’s El Chapo.Drug lord Joaquin Guzman has an unparalleled record of jailbreaks, having escaped two high-security Mexican prisons before his ultimate capture and extradition to the United States.

So with Guzman convicted Tuesday of drug trafficking and staring at an expected life sentence, where will the U.S. imprison a larger-than-life kingpin with a Houdini-like tendency to slip away?

Experts say Guzman seems the ideal candidate for the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, also known as ADX for “administrative maximum.” The facility is so secure, so remote and so austere that it has been called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

“El Chapo fits the bill perfectly,” said Cameron Lindsay, a retired warden who ran three federal lockups, including the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. “I’d be absolutely shocked if he’s not sent to the ADX.”

Located outside an old mining town about two hours south of Denver, Supermax’s hardened buildings house the nation’s most violent offenders, with many of its 400 inmates held alone for 23 hours a day in 7-by-12-foot (2.1-by-3.7 meter) cells with fixed furnishings made of reinforced concrete.

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols are among those who call it home.

But Guzman, set to be sentenced in June for smuggling enormous amounts of narcotics into the U.S and having a hand in dozens of murders, would stand out even from Supermax’s infamous roster because of his almost mythical reputation for breaking out.

That includes a sensational 2015 escape from the maximum-security Altiplano prison in central Mexico, where he communicated with accomplices for weeks via cellphone, slipped into an escape hatch beneath his shower, hopped on the back of a waiting motorcycle and sped through a mile-long, hand-dug tunnel to freedom.

Bribery is widely believed to have enabled that jailbreak, as well as a 2001 escape in which Guzman was smuggled out of another top-security Mexican prison in a laundry basket.

“There had to be collusion from within,” said Mike Vigil, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who worked undercover in Mexico. “There is no doubt corruption played a role in both of his spectacular escapes.”

Could that happen at Supermax? Not likely.

Prisoners at Supermax spend years in solitary confinement and often go days “with only a few words spoken to them,” an Amnesty International report found. One former prisoner, in an interview with The Boston Globe, described the lockup as a “high-tech version of hell, designed to shut down all sensory perception.”

Most inmates at Supermax are given a television, but their only actual view of the outside world is a 4-inch window. The window’s design prevents them from even determining where they are housed in the facility. Human interaction is minimal. Prisoners eat all meals in the solitude of their own cells, within feet of their toilets.

The facility itself is guarded by razor-wire fences, gun towers, heavily armed patrols and attack dogs.

“If ever there were an escape-proof prison, it’s the facility at Florence,” said Burl Cain, the former longtime warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “It’s the prison of all prisons.”

While federal authorities have not said for certain where El Chapo will be housed, he’s staring at “a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said after Tuesday’s verdict.

Guzman’s confinement leading up to his three-month trial included remarkable security measures reflecting his immense flight risk. He has been housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a Manhattan lockup known as “Little Gitmo” that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.

Authorities have routinely shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to shuttle El Chapo to federal court in a police motorcade that includes a SWAT team and ambulance tracked by helicopters. Heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs have patrolled outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Officials were so concerned about security, in fact, that Guzman was forbidden from hugging his wife at his trial.

That apparently won’t be a problem if he winds up in Supermax, where all visits are non-contact, and prisoners are separated from their visitors by a thick plexiglass screen.

“Other than when being placed in restraints and escorted by guards, prisoners may spend years without touching another human being,” the Amnesty International report found.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE: The Instagram app logo is displayed on an iPhone on Aug. 3, 2016, in London, England.  (Photo...
Rachel Metz, CNN Business

Instagram is testing AI that verifies your age with a selfie scan. It’s not perfect

Instagram is testing new ways to verify its youngest users' ages, including by using artificial intelligence that analyzes a photo and estimates how old the user is.
13 hours ago
Azuradee France, mother of the child found in a freezer in the basement of her Detroit home. (Credi...
Benjamin Schiller and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

Michigan mother charged with killing toddler son whose body was in freezer

A mother in Detroit has been charged with murder after the body of her 3-year-old son was found in a freezer Friday.
13 hours ago
The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The court in its nex...
Associated Press

Supreme Court rules for inmates seeking reduced prison terms

The Supreme Court has made it easier for certain prison inmates to seek shorter sentences under a bipartisan 2018 federal law.
13 hours ago
Emergency lights...
Associated Press

Police say restaurant workers shot in argument over mayo

Police say a man who complained there was too much mayonnaise on his sandwich opened fire at a Subway sandwich shop in Atlanta, killing one employee and injuring another.
13 hours ago
Law enforcement officers stand inside the secure perimeter of the U.S. Supreme Court Building as pr...
JESSICA GRESKO, Associated Press

Supreme Court sides with coach who sought to pray after game

The Supreme Court has sided with a football coach from Washington state who sought to kneel and pray on the field after games.
13 hours ago
NASA has carried out its first commercial spaceport launch outside the United States. (Equatorial L...
Kathleen Magramo, CNN

NASA launches first rocket from Australian space center

NASA has successfully launched a rocket from Australia's remote Northern Territory, making history as the agency's first commercial spaceport launch outside the United States.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
No Exit: El Chapo Likely Off To ‘Alcatraz Of The Rockies’