ADX Florence

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United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility
Florence ADMAX.jpg
ADX Florence is located in Colorado
ADX Florence
Location in Colorado
ADX Florence is located in the United States
ADX Florence
ADX Florence (the United States)
LocationFremont County, near Florence, Colorado
CoordinatesCoordinates: 38°21′23″N 105°05′41″W / 38.35630°N 105.09482°W / 38.35630; -105.09482
Security classSupermax
Population376 (December 2019)[1]
OpenedNovember 1994
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons
WardenAndre Matevousian [2]

The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX) is an American federal prison that provides a higher level of custody than a maximum security prison. It is classed as a supermax or "control unit" prison, where the safety of inmates and staff is paramount. It is located in unincorporated Fremont County, Colorado, near Florence, and opened in 1994, and it is informally known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies".

The Federal Bureau of Prisons needed a unit designed specifically for the secure housing of those prisoners most capable of violence toward staff or other inmates. As of December 2019, there are 376 prisoners who spend 23 hours per day in single cells with facilities made of poured concrete to deter self-harm, and 24-hour supervision, carried out intensively with high staff-inmate ratios. Phones are generally banned and only limited broadcast entertainment is permitted. After three years in maximum confinement, some prisoners may be transferred to a less restrictive prison. The aim is to encourage "reasonably peaceful behavior" from the most violent "career" prisoners.

The high standard of security has been reported; however, there is some concern about the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health.


The institution is unofficially known as ADX Florence, or the "Alcatraz of the Rockies".[3] It is part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a division of the United States Department of Justice. The complex also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, as of February 2019, houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.

ADX Florence houses male inmates in the federal prison system who are deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control, including prisoners whose escape would pose a serious threat to national security. The BOP does not have a designated "supermax" facility for women. Women in the BOP system who are classified as "special management concerns" due to violence or escape attempts are confined in the administrative unit of Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.[4]


The current warden of ADX Florence is Andre Matevousian.


In 1983, members of the Aryan Brotherhood stabbed two federal correction officers to death at the United States Penitentiary, Marion. The stabbings were blamed on inadequate prison design.[5] Federal Bureau of Prisons director Norman Carlson argued for the creation of a new type of facility where the most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for security and safety. Marion Penitentiary went into "permanent lockdown" following the 1983 murders and became a model for the construction of ADX, designed as a control unit prison.[6] Carlson said that such a prison would hold criminals desperate enough to murder corrections officers or other inmates in the hopes of being sentenced to death.[5]

ADX opened in November 1994,[7] and the residents of Fremont County, Colorado[8] welcomed it as a source of employment. The county already had nine prisons, but the lure of 750 to 900 permanent jobs (plus temporary jobs during the prison's construction) led residents to raise $160,000 to purchase 600 acres (240 ha) for the new prison. Hundreds of people attended the groundbreaking for the facility, which was designed by two leading architecture firms in Colorado Springs and cost $60 million to build.[9]

Inmate population[edit]

The supermax unit at ADX Florence houses about 400 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.[10] It is designed for 490 inmates but has never been at full capacity.[11] The facility is best known for housing inmates who have been deemed too dangerous, too high-profile, or too great a national security risk for even a maximum-security prison. The majority of current inmates, however, have been placed there because they have an extensive history of committing violent crimes against corrections officers and fellow inmates in other prisons, including murder. These inmates are kept in administrative segregation. They are confined in a single-person cell for 23 hours a day and are removed under restraint (handcuffed, shackled, or both); their one-hour out of their cell may occur at any time of the day or night. The hour outside of the cell is for exercise and a phone call if they have earned the privilege. Their diet is restricted to ensure that the food cannot be used to harm themselves or to create unhygienic conditions in their cell. Some cells have showers which reduces the amount of handling that Correctional Officers need to do.[11]

Inmates are then gradually allowed out for longer periods after at least one year, depending on their conduct. The long-term goal is to keep them at ADX for three years, then transfer them to a less restrictive prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences. According to a 1998 report in the San Francisco Chronicle, ADX Florence's main purpose is to "try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners".[12]

Prison facility[edit]

Design of a cell at ADX Florence
Artist's view of the cell

ADX Florence is a 37-acre (15 ha) complex located at 5880 Highway 67, Florence, Colorado, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Denver and 40 miles (64 km) south of Colorado Springs.[13] It is part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FFCC) which consists of three correctional facilities, each with a different security rating.[14]

The majority of the facility is above ground, with the exception of a subterranean corridor which links cellblocks to the lobby. Each cell has a desk, stool, and bed, which are almost entirely made out of poured concrete, as well as a toilet that shuts off if blocked, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink lacking a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light that can be shut off only remotely, a radio, and a television that shows recreational, educational, and religious programming.[15] All cells are sound-proofed to prevent prisoners from communicating with each other.

The 13 by 4 feet (0.10 by 1.22 m) windows are designed to prevent inmates from knowing their specific location within the complex. They can see only the sky and roof through them, so it is virtually impossible to plan an escape. Inmates exercise in a concrete pit resembling an empty swimming pool, also designed to prevent them from knowing their location in the facility.[16] The pit is only large enough for a prisoner to walk 10 steps in a straight line or 31 steps in a circle. Correction officers deliver food to the cells, although inmates sent to ADX from other prisons can potentially be allowed to eat in a shared dining room.[12] The prison as a whole contains a multitude of motion detectors and cameras and 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors. Officers in the prison's control center monitor inmates 24 hours a day and can activate a "panic button" which instantly closes every door in the facility should an escape attempt be suspected. Pressure pads and 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) razor wire fences surround the perimeter, which is patrolled by heavily armed officers. The center of the prison houses an area known as the "Z-Unit" for inmates who are deemed extreme security risks. Each of the three Z-Unit cells is equipped with a full set of body restraints that are built directly into the concrete bed.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons allowed the media to take a guided tour of ADX on September 14, 2007. Attending reporters remarked on "an astonishing and eerie quiet" within the prison as well as a sense of safety due to the rigorous security measures.[17] 60 Minutes producer Henry Schuster said, "A few minutes inside that cell and two hours inside Supermax were enough to remind me why I left high school a year early. The walls close in very fast."[18]


The prison has received far less criticism than comparable facilities at the state level, which tend to suffer from over-population, low staff-to-inmate ratios, and security issues. Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch said after a tour of the facility, "The Bureau of Prisons has taken a harsh punitive model and implemented it as well as anybody I know."[12] In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and officials who run ADX Florence in Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons.[19][20] The suit alleged chronic abuse and failure to properly diagnose prisoners who are seriously mentally ill.[21] Critics believe that the use of extended confinement in solitary cells adversely affects prisoners' mental health. As of March 2015, settlement negotiations were underway with the help of a federal magistrate and some improvements had been made by the Bureau of Prisons.[22][23]

Notable current inmates[edit]

Foreign terrorists[edit]

This list contains foreign citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests. All sentences are without parole.

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Zacarias Moussaoui 51427-054 Zacarias Moussaoui.jpg Serving 6 life sentences. French citizen and Al-Qaeda operative, pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges in 2005 for playing a key role in planning the September 11 attacks by helping the hijackers obtain flight lessons, money and material used in the attacks.[24]
Ramzi Yousef 03911-000 Ramzi Yousef.gif Serving life plus 240 years. Convicted in 1994 of terrorism conspiracy and other charges in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed 6 people and injured more than 1000. Yousef was also convicted in 1996 of planning Project Bojinka, a foiled plot conceived by senior Al-Qaeda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to bomb twelve planes in a 48-hour period.[25]
Wadih el-Hage
Khalfan Mohamed
Khalid al-Fawwaz
Serving life sentences. Al-Qaeda operatives from Lebanon, Tanzania, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; convicted in connection with the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, which were conceived by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; the bombings killed 224 people and injured more than 4000.[26][27][28][29]
Abu Hamza al-Masri 67495-054 Abu Hamza al-Masri.jpg Serving a life sentence under the name Mustafa Kamel Mustafa. Egyptian cleric and former associate of deceased Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; extradited from the UK in 2012; convicted in 2014 of masterminding the 1998 kidnapping of Westerners in Yemen and conspiring to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999.[30]
Richard Reid 24079-038 Richard reid 1.jpg Serving 3 life sentences plus 110 years. British national who became an Al-Qaeda operative; pleaded guilty in 2002 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his 2001 attempt to detonate explosive devices hidden in his shoes on a plane traveling from Paris to Miami; known as the "Shoe Bomber."[31]
Umar Abdulmutallab 44107-039 UmarFarouk.jpg Serving 4 life sentences plus 50 years. A Nigerian national and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operative, follower of the late militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki; pleaded guilty in 2011 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for trying to detonate an explosive sewn into his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009; known as the "Underwear Bomber."[32]
Ahmed Ressam 29638-086 Serving a 37-year sentence; scheduled for release on December 16, 2032.[33] Algerian national convicted in 2001 of terrorism conspiracy for planning to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999, in what is known as one of the 2000 millennium attack plots.[34][35]
Simón Trinidad 27896-016 Serving a 60-year sentence under the name Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda; scheduled for release on April 10, 2056. Member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla group on the U.S. State Department list of Terrorist Organizations; convicted in 2007 of terrorism conspiracy for his involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of three American military contractors.[36][37][38]
Adis Medunjanin 65114-053 Serving a life sentence. Al-Qaeda operative; convicted in 2012 of plotting to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009; co-conspirators Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty.[39][40]
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith 91969-054 Serving a life sentence. Al-Qaeda spokesman and son-in-law to Osama Bin Laden. Convicted in March 2014 for conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists.[41]
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim 42426-054 Mamdouh Mahmud Salim.jpg Serving a life sentence. Al-Qaeda co-founder and advisor to Osama Bin Laden. Extradited in 1998 for participating in the U.S. Embassy bombings and sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder during an escape attempt in 2000.[42]
Shain Duka 61284-066 Serving a life sentence Convicted in 2008 for conspiring to kill members of the Army at the Fort Dix, New Jersey, army base. His two brothers were also convicted: Eljvir Duka, who is being held at USP Florence High and Dritan Duka, who is being held at USP Marion.

Domestic terrorists[edit]

This list contains U.S. citizens regardless of origin who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 95079-038 Dzhokhar Tsarnayev (crop).jpg Sentenced to death on June 24, 2015. Participant in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; Dzhokhar planted a pressure cooker bomb at the direction of his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev near the finish line, which killed 3 people and injured over 250. He will be transferred to USP Terre Haute in Indiana when an execution date is set.
Theodore Kaczynski 04475-046 Theodore Kaczynski.jpg Serving 8 life sentences. Known as the Unabomber; pleaded guilty in 1998 to building, transporting, and mailing explosives to carry out 16 bombings from 1978 to 1995 in a mail bombing campaign targeting those involved with modern technology, which killed 3 people and injured 23 others.[43][44]
Terry Nichols 08157-031 Serving 161 consecutive life sentences. Co-conspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh, who planned and carried out the bombing was executed in Indiana in 2001.[45]
José Padilla 20796-424 José Padilla (prisoner).jpg Serving a 21-year sentence; scheduled for release on December 25, 2025.[46][47] Al-Qaeda operative and one of the first U.S. citizens to be designated as an enemy combatant after the September 11th attacks; convicted in 2007 of terrorism conspiracy for traveling overseas to attend an Al-Qaeda training camp in order to murder citizens of a foreign country.[48][49]
Eric Rudolph 18282-058 Eric Rudolph (cropped).png Serving 4 consecutive life sentences. Member of the Christian extremist group Army of God; pleaded guilty in 2005 to carrying out four bombings between 1996 and 1998, including the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta; 3 people were killed during the bombing spree.[50][51]
Faisal Shahzad 63510-054 Amd mug faisal-shahzad.jpg Serving a life sentence. Tehrik-i-Taliban operative; pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges in connection with the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt; received explosives training in 2009 from the terrorist organization Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan.[52][53]
Naser Jason Abdo 80882-280 Naser Jason Abdo - U.S. Army photo.jpg Serving 2 life sentences plus 60 years. U.S. Army private who refused to deploy to Afghanistan and went AWOL; convicted in 2012 of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for plotting to detonate a bomb at a restaurant near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, when it was filled with soldiers in 2011.[54][55]


Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Noshir Gowadia 95518-022
Noshir Gowada1.jpg
Serving a 32-year sentence; scheduled for release on September 11, 2033. Former engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense and principal designer of the B-2 stealth bomber; convicted in 2011 of using classified information to assist the People's Republic of China in producing cruise missiles with stealth technology.[56]
Robert Hanssen 48551-083 Robert Hanssen.jpg Serving 15 consecutive life sentences. Former senior FBI agent assigned to counterintelligence; pleaded guilty in 2002 to espionage for passing classified information to the Soviet Union and later to Russia over a 20-year period, which was regarded as the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history at the time; betraying dozens of U.S. intelligence agents, several of whom were executed directly due to Hanssen's actions.[57][58]
Walter Myers 29796-016 Serving a life sentence. Former intelligence analyst for the U.S. State Department; pled guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to commit espionage for providing classified U.S. national defense information to Cuba. His wife, Gwendolyn Myers, was sentenced to 6 years.[59][60]
Harold Nicholson 49535-083 Hjnicholson.jpg Serving a 23-year sentence; scheduled for release on June 27, 2024. Highest-ranking CIA officer to be convicted of espionage; pleaded guilty in 1997 to passing classified information to Russia from 1994 to 1996; pleaded guilty in 2010 to attempting to collect payments from Russian agents for his past espionage activities.[61][62][63]

Organized crime figures[edit]

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
James Marcello 99076-012 James Marcello (surveillance photo).jpg Serving a life sentence. "Front Boss" of the Chicago Outfit; convicted of racketeering, conspiracy for participating in 18 murders, and directing criminal activities including extortion, illegal gambling, loan sharking, and bribery.[64][65]
Luis Felipe 14067-074 Serving life plus 45 years. Leader of the New York chapter of the Latin Kings gang; convicted in 1996 of murder conspiracy and racketeering for running a criminal enterprise whose members engage in murder, assault, armed robbery, and drug trafficking; Felipe is known as "King Blood."[66][67]
Tyler Bingham 03325-091 Serving a life sentence. Aryan Brotherhood prison gang founder; transferred to ADX in 2006 after being connected to violent gang activities in prison; convicted of murder, murder conspiracy, and racketeering for ordering the killing of two inmates at USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania.[68][69]
Larry Hoover 86063-024 Serving 6 life sentences. Leader of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago; sentenced to life in state prison in 1973 for murder; convicted in 1997 of drug conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, and running a continuing criminal enterprise for leading the gang from state prison.[70][71]
Jeff Fort 92298-024 Serving a 68-year sentence; scheduled for release on October 14, 2044. Founder of the El-Rukn (Black P. Stones) gang in Chicago; convicted of drug trafficking in 1983; convicted of terrorism conspiracy in 1987 for plotting to commit attacks inside the U.S. in exchange for weapons and $2.5 million from Libya.[72][73]
O. G. Mack 30063-037 Serving a 50-year sentence under his actual name Omar Portee; scheduled for release on February 4, 2045. Founder of the United Blood Nation gang; convicted in 2002 of racketeering and murder conspiracy, as well as narcotics and weapons charges.[74]
Kaboni Savage 58232-066 Sentenced to death on June 3, 2013.[75] Philadelphia drug kingpin; convicted in 2013 of 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering for ordering six drug-related homicides, as well as fire bombing the home of a federal witness which killed two adults and four children.[76][77] He will be transferred to United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana when an execution date is set.
Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán 89914-053
Life in prison plus 30 years Former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán was extradited from Mexico to the United States in January 2017, where he pleaded not guilty to all counts against him in Brooklyn, New York.[78] His charges included drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder. His defense asserted that he was not the organized crime leader that the prosecution claimed. The trial, often characterized as a trial of the century, began on November 5, 2018, and lasted until February 12, 2019, when the jury found him guilty of all counts. He was sentenced on July 17, 2019 to life imprisonment without parole.

Other crimes[edit]

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Dwight York 17911-054 Serving a 135-year sentence; scheduled for release on June 7, 2122. Founder and leader of the Nuwaubian Nation, a black supremacist cult. Convicted in 2004 of child molestation, racketeering and conspiracy, and fraud.[79][80]
Richard McNair 13829-045 Mcnair april 06.png Serving 2 life sentences on a state murder charge from North Dakota in 1987. Held at ADX due to multiple prison escapes; escaped from the Ward County Jail in Minot, North Dakota in 1987 by using lip balm to slip out of handcuffs, from the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck in 1992 by crawling through a ventilator duct, and from USP Pollock in Louisiana in 2006 by concealing himself in a pallet of used and damaged mailbags being moved from the prison factory to a prison warehouse outside of the secure perimeter.[81][82]
Michael Swango 08352-424 Serving 3 life sentences. Physician and serial killer; pleaded guilty in 2000 to fatally poisoning four patients; has been linked to scores of other deaths.[83][84]
Paul Bergrin 16235-050 Serving a life sentence. Attorney convicted of conspiracy to murder a witness and racketeering, cocaine, and prostitution offenses.[85]
Matthew F. Hale 15177-424 Serving a 40-year prison term; scheduled for release on December 30, 2037 Neo-Nazi leader of the WCOTC cult. Convicted in 2005 for soliciting an FBI informant to kill federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Transferred to Federal Correctional Institution, Terre Haute in 2016 but was moved back to ADX.
Dominick Maldonado 02071-122 Serving a 163-year state sentence. Perpetrator of the 2005 Tacoma Mall shooting. Injured six in the mall before committing four armed kidnappings. Transferred to ADX by the state of Washington due to safety and security concerns.
Jessie Con-ui 04287-748 Jessie Con-ui.jpg Serving a life sentence. Already jailed for life for slaying a gang rival in Arizona, Con-ui was identified as the suspect in the murder of corrections officer Eric Williams.

See also[edit]


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