Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago

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Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago
Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago.JPG
Location Chicago, Illinois
Status Operational
Security class Metropolitan Correctional Center
Population 683[1]
Opened 1975
Managed by Federal Bureau of Prisons
Warden Catherine Linaweaver

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.[2]

History and design[edit]

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.[3]

Prison life[edit]

Access to the rooftop exercise yard is limited to every other day for two 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.

Notable inmates[edit]

  • Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez and Tomas Arevalo-Renteria, currently awaiting trial, are high-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel, a multibillion-dollar drug trafficking organization based in Mexico; extradited and indicted in 2012 on charges that they supplied Chicago with 2000 kilograms of cocaine per month, valued at over $1 billion.[4]
  • Kevin Trudeau, sentenced to 10 years on March 17, 2014, is a fraud artist, author, radio personality, infomercial host, and salesman. Trudeau was convicted in 2013 of criminal contempt for violating a 2004 federal court order that prohibited him from making deceptive television infomercials that misrepresented the contents of his weight loss cure book.[5][6]

Notable events[edit]

1985 escapes[edit]

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.[14]

2009 escape plot[edit]

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.[15]

Vicente Zambada-Niebla lawsuit[edit]

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.[16] 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.[17]

2012 escape[edit]

In the early morning hours of December 18, 2012, two convicted bank robbers, Kenneth Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks, escaped the secure facility. Conley and Banks were being housed in the MCC while awaiting sentencing on their respective bank robbery convictions, crimes which were unrelated beyond the pair being cellmates at MCC.[18] The escape by Banks and Conley was 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.

The pair ostensibly fashioned a rope from bedsheets or fabric scraps,[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] The inmates had obtained and concealed 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 they 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.[22]

Conley and Banks were subsequently 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.[23] In the video, they were 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.[24]

On December 20, 2012 Banks was recaptured by FBI agents and Chicago police in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue. On January 3, 2013, Conley was apprehended in Palos Hills, Illinois.[25][26]

Conley and Banks are currently incarcerated at Florence ADX, the supermax facility in Colorado which holds the most dangerous inmates in the federal system, as well as inmates who constitute a high escape risk.[27][28] Their respective release dates are in 2032 and 2040.

See also[edit]

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, from the Willis Tower looking East-Southeast.


  1. ^ "Bureau of Prisons Weekly Population Report". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "MCC Chicago". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Baldwin, Ian (May 2011). "The Architecture of Harry Weese". Places Journal. 
  4. ^ "Reputed Drug Kingpin Has New Home: Chicago Federal Lockup". CBS News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Associated Press (March 18, 2014). "TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for bilking customers". Fox News. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Weight-Loss Infomercial Pitchman Kevin Trudeau Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Criminal Contempt". Federal Bureau of Investigation. March 17, 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Associated Press (September 23, 2010). "Federal prosecutors say 2006 Salt Lake City library blast was Illinois man's revenge". Fox News. 
  8. ^ Foy, Paul (October 4, 2010). "Utah jury convicts Ill. man for library explosion". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "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. 
  10. ^ The Runaways
  11. ^ Risciso
  12. ^
  13. ^ Piper Kerman, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
  14. ^ Babwin, Don (December 20, 2012). "Chicago jail escape resembles 1985 breakout". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Burnette II, Daarel (July 7, 2010). "Nolan sentenced for escape attempt". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  16. ^ Goudie, Chuck. "Judge's ruling raises security concerns at MCC". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  17. ^ Goudie, Chuck. "Mexican druglord unhappy with move from Chicago". ABC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  18. ^ Schmadeke, Steve (October 10, 2011). "Strip club worker held in Homewood bank robbery". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "Federal Arrest Warrants Issued for Chicago Jail Escapees". NBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Prosecutors get protection after escape". United Press International. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "Prosecutors get protection after escape". United Press International. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  22. ^ "One Of Two Escaped Bank Robbers Captured; Second Still On The Run". CBS News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Sweeney, Annie (December 19, 2012). "Manhunt widens for escaped bank robbers". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  24. ^ Babwin, Don (20 December 2012). "Chicago Prison Escape Reminiscent Of 1985 Breakout, Manhunt Continues". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  25. ^ Sweeney, Annie (January 4, 2013). "Escapee's mother: 'I'm just glad it's over'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Main, Frank (January 4, 2013). "Second bank robber escapee arrested in Palos Hills". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  27. ^ Meisner, Jason (October 22, 2014). "'Transformed' jail escapee pleads for leniency, gets 36 years". Tribune Publishing. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  28. ^ Meisner, Jason (February 24, 2014). "Jail escapee tells judge to 'stick it' at sentencing". The Tribune Company. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°52′36″N 87°37′50″W / 41.87667°N 87.63056°W / 41.87667; -87.63056