Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago
|Security class||Metropolitan Correctional Center|
|Managed by||Federal Bureau of Prisons|
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago (MCC Chicago) is a United States federal prison facility in Chicago, Illinois which holds male and female prisoners of all security levels prior to or during court proceedings in the Northern District of Illinois, as well as inmates serving brief sentences. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice.
History and design
MCC Chicago was designed by architect Harry Weese. Construction began in 1971 and the facility opened in 1975. Several features make MCC Chicago's design unique from other federal prison facilities. Each cell has a slit window which is 5 inches wide by 7 feet long. The building is a right triangle shape, extrudes 28 stories, and has a rooftop exercise yard.
Access to the rooftop exercise yard is limited to at most twice a week for 2 hours at a time. There is also access to the gym once or twice a week. There is a library that houses movies as well as books that prisoners can utilize twice a week.
In 1985, convicted murderers Bernard Welch and Hugh Colomb assembled the materials necessary to break open a window hole and gain egress from the MCC, escaping down a piecework rope to street level. They were eventually recaptured after a months-long nationwide manhunt.
2009 Escape Plot
In October 2009, Matthew Nolan, brother of British film director Christopher Nolan, assembled bedsheets and other materials for a foiled window escape plan that was later called "impossible" by the judge who sentenced Nolan to 14 months for the attempt. Nolan was being held at the MCC awaiting extradition to Costa Rica on a passport charge (his charges having been reduced from earlier capital offenses) at the time of the foiled plot.
Vicente Zambada-Niebla lawsuit
In February 2010, Sinaloa Cartel leader Vicente Zambada-Niebla was apprehended by Mexican police and extradited to Chicago to face trial. Considered a high security risk, he was placed in solitary confinement. Based on intelligence that allies of Zambada-Niebla were planning a helicopter escape, Zambada-Niebla was not allowed access to the rooftop exercise yard. Bureau of Prisons officials cited the fact that the Sinaloa Cartel has unlimited resources and has succeeded in both escapes and assassinations in the past. Zambada-Niebla sued the Bureau of Prisons in 2011 claiming that his being denied exercise constituted cruel and unusual punishment. In September 2011, US District Judge Ruben Castillo ruled that since Zambada-Niebla had not been convicted, placing him solitary confinement was unwarranted. In order to comply with the ruling and alleviate security concerns, the Bureau of Prisons transferred Zambada-Niebla to the Federal Correctional Institution, Milan, a medium-security facility in Michigan which has a ground-level exercise area.
In the early morning hours of December 18, 2012, two convicted bank robbers being housed in the MCC escaped the secure facility. According to reports, Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks ostensibly fashioned a rope from bedsheets or fabric scraps, and exited their 17th-floor cell through a hole created at the bottom of a narrow window slot, rappelling down the side of the MCC to the street below.
The pair were reportedly recorded on a nearby video security system as they entered a cab at the corner of Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue at about 2:40 am. Their escape - and the gaping hole in the prison wall - apparently went unnoticed during routine overnight bed checks, and was only discovered when arriving jail workers spotted the makeshift rope dangling down the side of the MCC at about 7:00 am.
On the video, Conley and Banks were reportedly wearing some form of light-colored plain clothes, and not their bright-orange, prison-issue jumpsuits. The identity of the cab driver and cab company, as well as how the convicts paid the cab fare remained unclear, but they reportedly managed to arrive in suburban New Lenox and ate breakfast at the residence of Conley's ex-girlfriend. The pair also reportedly visited the home of Conley's mother in nearby Tinley Park, where they were initially turned away, only to break in using a rock, and then departed after retrieving a winter coat. During the encounter, Conley reportedly stated that he was "out on bond."
The inmates were reportedly successful in the procurement and concealment of large numbers of bedsheets, fake iron window bars used to mimic the real bars they removed and hid, passable street clothing, and bulky materials used to fool guards into believing the prisoners were asleep in bed. It is unclear what tools were used to create the hole in the wall necessary for the escape, and if these had been hidden in the cell for an extended period of time.
According to reports, Banks had the potential to be in possession of over $500,000 in stolen cash that was never accounted for after his arrest and conviction for numerous bank robberies, a massive crime spree which earned him the press moniker of the "Second Hand Bandit" due to the "thrift-store disguises" Banks wore during the strong-armed thefts. Conley and Banks were being housed in the Federally-operated MCC while awaiting sentencing on their respective bank robbery convictions, crimes which were unrelated beyond the pair being cellmates at MCC. The escape by Banks and Conley is the first from any secure federal correctional facility since April, 2006, when convicted murderer Richard Lee McNair escaped from the U.S. Penitentiary at Pollock, LA. McNair was recaptured in Canada in October, 2007.
On the morning of December 21, the Chicago Tribune reported that "Joseph 'Jose' Banks, 37, was taken into custody by FBI agents and Chicago police around 11:30 p.m. Thursday in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue, according to the FBI. Banks is scheduled to appear in court later this morning to face escape charges." Witnesses at the scene reported a "big boom," possibly indicating use of some type of concussion or stun device by law enforcement during the capture of Banks. Kenneth Conley, 38, remained at large and had probably left the Chicago area.
On January 3, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Baker dropped the escape charge against Banks, most likely because Banks has already been tried, convicted, and effectively faces life in prison at his upcoming sentencing on bank robbery charges. The escape charge can be considered at his sentencing, and could be reinstated at a later date.
|Inmate Name||Register Number||Status||Details|
|Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez||45111-424||Currently awaiting trial.||High-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel, a multibillion-dollar drug trafficking organization based in Mexico; extradited and indicted in 2012 on for supplying Chicago with 2000 kilograms of cocaine per month, valued at over $1 billion.|
|Thomas Zajac||22313-424||Sentenced to 35 years on April 14, 2011.||Convicted in 2010 of using a destructive device and other charges for detonating a homemade pipe bomb at the Salt Lake City Public Library in Utah on September 15, 2006 in retaliation against Salt Lake City police for arresting his son.|
- "Bureau of Prisons Weekly Population Report". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- "MCC Chicago". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "The Architecture of Harry Weese". Design Observer. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Babwin, Don (December 20, 2012). "Chicago jail escape resembles 1985 breakout". Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Burnette II, Daarel (July 7, 2010). "Nolan sentenced for escape attempt". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Goudie, Chuck. "Judge's ruling raises security concerns at MCC". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Goudie, Chuck. "Mexican druglord unhappy with move from Chicago". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Federal Arrest Warrants Issued for Chicago Jail Escapees". NBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Prosecutors get protection after escape". United Press International. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Sweeney, Annie (December 19, 2012). "Manhunt widens for escaped bank robbers". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Prosecutors get protection after escape". United Press International. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Babwin, Don. "Chicago Prison Escape Reminiscent Of 1985 Breakout, Manhunt Continues". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Sweeney, Annie (December 19, 2012). "Manhunt widens for escaped bank robbers". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- "One Of Two Escaped Bank Robbers Captured; Second Still On The Run". CBS News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Trail for 2 escaped Chicago inmates goes cold, video may show them entering taxi". Fox News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "FBI: 'Second Hand Bandit' prolific robber". Chicago Tribune. September 5, 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Main, Frank (December 21, 2012). "Tipster helps FBI put escaped bank robber back in jail". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Schmadeke, Steve (October 10, 2011). "Strip club worker held in Homewood bank robbery". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Sweeney, Annie (December 21, 2012). "Witnesses: 'Big boom,' then arrest of prison escapee". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- "FBI: Escaped Bank Robber Likely Has Left Chicago Area". CBS News. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Sweeney, Annie (January 3, 2013). "Charge dropped in MCC high-rise escape". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Janssen, Kim (January 3, 2013). "Feds drop charge against federal lockup escapee". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Sweeney, Annie (January 4, 2013). "Escapee's mother: 'I'm just glad it's over'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Main, Frank (January 4, 2013). "Second bank robber escapee arrested in Palos Hills". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "Reputed Drug Kingpin Has New Home: Chicago Federal Lockup". CBS News. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Associated Press (September 23, 2010). "Federal prosecutors say 2006 Salt Lake City library blast was Illinois man's revenge". Fox News.
- Foy, Paul (October 4, 2010). "Utah jury convicts Ill. man for library explosion". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- "Zajac Sentenced to 35 Years in Federal Prison in Connection with Explosion at Salt Lake Library". Federal Bureau of Investigation. April 14, 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- Waldheim, Charles; Ray, Katerina Ruedi, "Chicago Architecture: histories, revisions, alternatives", Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2005. ISBN 0-226-87038-3, Cf. p. 285
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago.|
- MCC Chicago at the Federal Bureau of Prisons website