United States Penitentiary, Florence High

Coordinates: 38°21′42″N 105°05′45″W / 38.36167°N 105.09583°W / 38.36167; -105.09583
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
United States Penitentiary, Florence High
LocationFremont County,
near Florence, Colorado
Coordinates38°21′42″N 105°05′45″W / 38.36167°N 105.09583°W / 38.36167; -105.09583
Security classHigh
Population971 (September 2023)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons
WardenM. Starr

The United States Penitentiary, Florence High (USP Florence High) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Colorado. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. USP Florence High is part of the Federal Correctional Complex, Florence (FCC Florence), which is situated on 49 acres (20 ha) of land and houses different facilities with varying degrees of security. It is named "Florence High" in order to differentiate it from the United States Penitentiary, Florence ADMAX, the federal supermax prison located in the same complex.

FCC Florence is located in unincorporated Fremont County, Colorado,[1] 90 mi (145 km) south of Denver.[2]


USP Florence High was built in 1993 in response to the growing need for a place to house high-security federal inmates. It was designed by DLR Group, an architectural firm specializing in correctional facilities. Before the complex was built, the city of Florence was experiencing an economic crisis with an unemployment rate of 17%. When the citizens were polled by mail about building the complex in Florence, 97% of respondents were in favor of the project. It was estimated that the Florence Federal Correctional Complex was going to provide about 1,000 temporary jobs and 900 permanent jobs. In anticipation of these jobs the community raised $160,000 to purchase the 600 acres (240 ha) needed to build the prisons.


USP Florence High housed 816 male inmates as of December 2019,[3] and is about 390,020 sq ft (36,234 m2). A perimeter fence, seven guard towers, and a patrol road ensure the security of the prison.[4] The prison includes health services, educational program areas, visitation, laundry, a barbershop, commissary, chapel, Special Housing Unit (SHU), and an exercise area. The prison also contains a step-down unit for inmates of ADX Florence. Inmates will still spend roughly 22 hours of their day in their cells; however, they are kept in a less restrictive environment in which interaction among inmates is acceptable and encouraged. From there, they will either be transferred to the general population unit in Florence High or to a different federal prison.

Notable incidents[edit]

In 2000, seven federal correctional officers whom the union called "The Cowboys" were charged with committing misconduct which occurred between January 1995 and July 1997, which included beating and choking handcuffed inmates, mixing waste into the inmates' food, and threatening other officers who objected to their actions.[5] The case went to trial in 2003, and three of the officers, Mike Lavallee, Rod Schultz, and Robert Verbickas, were convicted of violating the civil rights of inmate Pedro Castillo by beating him while he was in restraints. Lavallee and Schultz were also convicted of engaging in a conspiracy to commit civil rights violations.[6] All three were sentenced to prison terms.[7]

1999 inmate murder[edit]

On October 10, 1999, inmates William Concepcion Sablan and Rudy Cabrera Sablan were accused of the murder of fellow inmate Joey Jesus Estrella. The three inmates were seen drinking "hooch" together, and they were heard fighting throughout the night. Both William and Rudy Sablan were found with the disembowled corpse of Estrella in their cell the next morning. Prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against both William and Rudy Sablan, who are cousins; however, due to William Sablan's extensive record of mental illness and brain damage, they were both given life sentences for the murder and moved into ADX Florence. As of January 2021, William Sablan was being incarcerated at USP Allenwood and Rudy Sablan was housed at USP Hazleton.[8]

2008 inmate murder[edit]

In 2008, inmate Gary Douglas Watland, who was serving a combined 55-year state sentence for the murder of a friend and attempting to escape the Maine State Prison, was accused of killing fellow inmate Mark Baker, a member of the Nazi Lowriders gang. Watland sneaked up on Baker while he was playing poker and stabbed him in the neck with a homemade knife. Watland stated the attack was a "kill or be killed situation", as he had recently come out of the closet in prison. Baker's gang was known to attack homosexuals in prison. Watland subsequently accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life imprisonment. As of January 2021, he was serving his sentence at ADX Florence.[9]

2008 inmate riot[edit]

On April 20, 2008 a 30-minute riot occurred between a large number of inmates in the recreation yard, during which several inmates were stabbed with homemade knives known as "shanks." Correction officers who were posted on watch towers shot and killed two of the armed inmates. The incident began after white supremacist prisoners celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday began yelling racial epithets at black prisoners. The white supremacists were drinking hooch, a form of homemade wine, and were armed with rocks and improvised weapons. Approximately 200 prisoners were involved in the melee.[10]

2021 inmate murder[edit]

On December 6, 2021, inmate Jamarr Thompson, 33, was killed after he was involved in an altercation with another inmate. Thompson was serving a 63-month sentence for an attempted bank robbery.[11] This was the third murder in a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) institution in the past one month, the other two occurring at USP Canaan and USP Tucson, respectively.[12] This incident heightened concerns about the rising level of violence within BOP prisons. It also intensified chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin's request to the Attorney General to fire BOP chairman Michael Carvajal, citing failure to respond adequately to rising levels of violence within federal prisons and corruption among BOP staff.[13]

Notable inmates (current and former)[edit]

Foreign terrorists[edit]

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Sayfullo Saipov 79715-054 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving ten life sentences plus 260 years. Perpetrator of the 2017 New York City truck attack, in which he drove a pickup truck rented from Home Depot and drove it through the protected bike lane of Hudson River Park in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring eleven others. The incident was considered the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since the September 11 attacks of 2001.
Khalfan Mohamed 44623-054 Serving a life sentence. An Al-Qaeda operative from Tanzania; 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 4,000.[14][15][16][17]
Khalid al-Fawwaz 67497-054 Transferred to USP Victorville. Serving a life sentence. An Al-Qaeda operative from 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 4,000. Moved into USP Florence - High from adjacent ADX in January 2022.[14][15][16][17]
Shain Duka 61284-066 Transferred to USP Atwater. Serving a life sentence plus 30 years. 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 Hazelton and Dritan Duka, who is being held at FCI Terre Haute.
El Shafee Elsheikh 11698-509 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving eight concurrent life sentences. Elsheikh was given 8 life sentences without the possibility of parole in August 2022 for charges of conspiracy to commit murder, lethal hostage taking, and material support. These charges stemmed from participating in the beheadings of four Americans while an active member of the Islamic State. Elsheikh was one of the four British members of what was known as the "ISIS Beatles". Another member of this group, Alexanda Kotey was also given a life sentence in federal court and is currently serving his sentence at USP Canaan.[18]
Ahmed Ressam 29638-086 Serving a 37-year sentence; scheduled for release on July 1, 2032. Transferred to ADX Florence.[19] 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.[20][21]
Mohamed al-Owhali 42371–054] Sentenced to life imprisonment. British-born Saudi terrorist who is one of four individuals convicted in connection with the 1998 United States embassy bombings.

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
Naser Jason Abdo 80882-280 Archived 2012-12-11 at archive.today Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving two consecutive 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 in 2011 at a restaurant near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, when it was filled with soldiers.[22][23] Transferred into Florence High from ADX Florence in May 2021 but was sent back to ADX in June 2021 .
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 95079-038 Transferred to ADX Florence. Originally sentenced to death on June 24, 2015. Sentence overturned by a federal appeals court on July 31, 2020, but re-imposed by Supreme Court on March 4, 2022. Dzhokhar planted a pressure cooker bomb at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring over 250. He was sentenced to death.

On June 25, 2015, Tsarnaev was transferred to the USP Florence High; as of July 17, 2015 he had been transferred to ADX Florence.[24][25] He was to be transferred to USP Terre Haute in Indiana when his execution date was set, but the death sentence was vacated in July 2020 due to inadequate screening for potential biases among jury pool. The death sentence was re-imposed by the Supreme Court of the United States on March 4, 2022.

Michael Finton 17031-026 Transferred to FCI Bennettsville. Serving a 28-year sentence, scheduled for release on January 11, 2034. Convicted for attempt to murder, with malice aforethought, at least one US federal officer and employee and an attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction against property owned by the US.
Harlem Suarez 06262-104 Serving a life sentence. ISIS sympathizer; charged on July 28, 2015 with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction for planning to detonate a backpack bomb on a public beach in Key West, Florida.[26][27]
Adam Dean Fox 11843-509 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving a 16-year sentence; scheduled for release on May 26, 2034. Designer and ring-leader of the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot, a plot to overthrow the state government of Michigan beginning with the kidnapping of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Fox and his co-defendants are all associated with the far-right or militia groups.[28]

Organized crime figures[edit]

Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Osiel Cárdenas Guillén 62604-079 Transferred to USP Terre Haute.

Serving a 25-year sentence; scheduled for release on August 30, 2024.

Succeeded Juan García Ábrego as leader of the Gulf Cartel; extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in 2007 and pleaded guilty to threatening to murder U.S. law enforcement agents, drug trafficking and money laundering.[29][30]
Arturo Gallegos Castrellon 86139-080 Serving a life sentence. Leader of the Barrio Azteca, ordered the murder of two U.S consulate employees. Gallegos targeted the American officials because he believed they had given visas to members of a rival gang.[31]
Dario Antonio Úsuga 99420-509 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving a 45 year sentence under his misspelled name Dairo; scheduled for release on February 27, 2060. Former leader of the Golf Clan, he was one of the most wanted drug lords in Colombia before he was captured on October 23rd, 2021, and later extradited to the United States in May 2022. He was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 45 years in prison, in addition to being fined $216 million. US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Úsuga "ordered the reckless execution of Colombian police officers, soldiers, and civilians" during his time as leader of the Golf Clan.[32][33][34]
Ronald Herron "Ra Diggs" 78527-053 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving 12 consecutive life sentences plus 105 years. One-time Brooklyn rapper, Ronald Herron AKA Ra Diggs was tried and convicted in 2014 for 21 counts, including three murders, racketeering and drug trafficking in connection to running a violent drug gang in New York.
O. G. Mack 30063-037 Archived 2012-02-06 at the Wayback Machine Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving a 50-year sentence under his legal name of Omar Portee; scheduled for release on May 23, 2044. Founder of the United Blood Nation gang; convicted in 2002 of racketeering and murder conspiracy, as well as narcotics and weapons charges.[35]
Fotios "Freddy" Geas 05244-748 Serving a life sentence. Transferred to ADX Florence. Massachusetts mobster and hitman. Suspect in Bulger death.[36]
Monzer al-Kassar 61111-054 Serving a 30-year sentence; scheduled for release on December 28, 2032. In 2009, sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiring to sell weapons to Colombian rebels.
Perry Roark 53975-037 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving a life sentence. One of the founders of the Dead Man Incorporated prison gang. In 2013, Roark pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy, murder and trafficking charges related to running the gang alongside members Bryan Jordan and James Sweeney. Roark and Sweeney were subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Both Sweeney and Roark were serving their life terms at ADX Florence until Roark was transferred to Florence High in 2019.[37]
Tex Hernandez 02536-748 Serving a life sentence. Leader of the Nuestra Familia, convicted of racketeering for controlling the gang from the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison; found guilty due to Operation Black Widow, a federal investigation.[38]
Ross Ulbricht 18870-111 Transferred to USP Tucson.

Serving two consecutive life sentences plus 40 years.

Convicted in 2015 for operating the Silk Road marketplace web site.
Ronell Wilson 71460-053 Transferred to USP Coleman. Serving a life sentence. Gang leader in Staten Island, New York; murdered NYPD Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews, who were conducting a sting operation to buy an illegal gun in 2003.[39][40]


Inmate name Register number Photo Status Details
Gary Ridgway 02072-122 Transferred to Washington State Penitentiary in 2015. Serving 49 consecutive life sentences plus 480 years. Known as the Green River Killer, Ridgway committed murder, rape and necrophilia in the Seattle and Tacoma area. Ridgway spent May 2015 to October 2015 in USP Florence. In 2015 transferred back to Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla
Richard McNair 13829-045 Transferred to USP McCreary as of November 3, 2023. Serving two consecutive life sentences on a state murder charge from North Dakota in 1987. Previously held at ADX due to multiple prison escapes until November 2022; escaped from the Ward County Jail in Minot, North Dakota in 1988, from the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck in 1992, and from USP Pollock in Louisiana in 2006.
Auburn Calloway 14601-076 Transferred to USP McCreary. Serving two consecutive life sentences. Hijacker of Federal Express Flight 705 in 1994.
Chevie Kehoe 21300-009 Transferred to USP Terre Haute. Serving a life sentence. White supremacist convicted on charges of racketeering, racketeering in aid of murder and robbery conspiracy in connection to the kidnapping, torture and murders of William and Nancy Mueller and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. Co-defendant Daniel Lewis Lee was executed for the murders at United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute on July 14, 2020. Transferred into Florence High from ADX Florence in 2019.
Chimene Hamilton Onyeri 79217-380 Serving a life sentence. Attempted assassination of Travis County, Texas, district judge Julie Kocurek after she previously sentenced him for running a tax refund scam. Transferred here from USP Pollock.[41][42]
Scott Lee Kimball 14444-006 Serving a 70-year sentence; scheduled for release on January 7, 2082. Serial killer sentenced to 70 years in Colorado state prison in 2009 for financial crimes and four murders committed while he was an FBI informant. Suspected of having committed additional murders. Convicted of attempted escape in 2020 after a prisoner he was plotting with three years earlier informed the FBI; transferred from state to federal custody in 2021 for unknown reasons.[43]
Dominick Maldonado 02071-122 Transferred to ADX Florence. Serving a 163-year state sentence. Perpetrator of the 2005 Tacoma Mall shooting, as well as keeping four people hostage at gunpoint at a Sam Goody store. Transferred here for a short period of time, but returned to ADX in May 2023.
Patrick Franklin Andrews 12550-007 Serving a life sentence. Criminal who murdered two people (in 1997 and 2000) and later killed a fellow inmate at USP Hazelton in 2007. Received another sentence of life imprisonment in 2015 and was transferred to Florence High.[44][45]
John Travis Millner 32011-007 Serving a life sentence. Sentenced to life for murdering someone by shooting them with a high-powered rifle. In 2009, he stabbed a fellow prisoner with a prison-made icepick before strangling him to death.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Fremont County, CO" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 37 (PDF p. 38/51). Retrieved 2022-08-13. Florence Federal Correctional Complx
  2. ^ "BOP: USP Florence High". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  3. ^ "BOP: Population Statistics". www.bop.gov. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  4. ^ Bosworth, Mary (ed.) (2005). Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities, Vol. 2. pp. 1115–1116.
  5. ^ "National News Briefs; Prison Guards Charged In Attacks on Inmates". The New York Times. 2000-11-04.
  6. ^ Boczkiewicz, Robert (2003-06-25). "Three prison guards convicted, 4 acquitted in fed 'Cowboys' trial - Pueblo Chieftain: Metro". Chieftain.com. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  7. ^ Alan Prendergast (2003-06-26). "Cowboy Justice - Page 1 - News - Denver". Westword. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  8. ^ KOHLER, JUDITH (13 February 2007). "Lawyer: Inmate accused in gruesome prison death has brain damage". www.postindependent.com. Retrieved 2021-01-31.
  9. ^ "No Death Penalty for Maine Prisoner | Prison Legal News". www.prisonlegalnews.org. Retrieved 2021-01-31.
  10. ^ "Violence on the Rise in BOP Facilities | Prison Legal News".
  11. ^ Record |, The Daily (2021-12-07). "Florence inmate dies after altercation at prison". Canon City Daily Record. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  12. ^ "Third inmate killed in new spate of federal prison violence". ABC News. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  13. ^ "Colorado inmate dies in federal prison, marking 3rd death in a month". FOX31 Denver. 2021-12-07. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  14. ^ a b Warren Richey (January 25, 2011). "Ahmed Ghailani gets life sentence for Al Qaeda bombing of US embassies". Christian Science Monitor. CSMonitor.com. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  15. ^ a b Weiser, Benjamin (November 17, 2010). "Acquittal on All but One Charge for Ghailani, Ex-Detainee". The New York Times.
  17. ^ a b "Two Terrorists – A Portrait Of Wadih El Hage, Accused Terrorist | Hunting Bin Laden | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  18. ^ "Elshafee El Sheikh: Ex-Briton 'Isis Beatle' sentenced to life in prison". BBC News. 2022-08-19. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  19. ^ "Terrorist sentenced to 37 years in millennium plot". USA Today. Associated Press. October 24, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  20. ^ "22 Years For Millennium Bomb Plot". CBS News.
  21. ^ Schwartz, John (February 3, 2010). "Appeals Court Throws Out Sentence in Bombing Plot, Calling It Too Light". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Army private gets 2 life sentences for plan to attack soldiers". CNN.com. 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  23. ^ "USAO Press Release – | ATF". Atf.gov. 2012-05-24. Archived from the original on 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  24. ^ "Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev transferred to Colorado prison". CBS News. June 25, 2015.
  25. ^ Dzhokhar Tsarnaev transferred to Supermax prison, Milton J. Valencia, The Boston Globe, July 17, 2015. Accessed on line July 20, 2015.
  26. ^ Weaver, Jay (July 28, 2015). "FBI: Key West man charged with trying to use backpack bomb in terror plot". Miami Herald. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  27. ^ "Florida Resident Charged with Attempting to Use Weapon of Mass Destruction". Federal Bureau of Investigation. US Department of Justice. July 28, 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  28. ^ "Life sentence sought for mastermind behind governor's kidnapping plot - Michigan News". 2022-12-06. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  29. ^ "Extradition: Past cases highlight limits - Brownsville Herald: Valley". Brownsville Herald. 2011-03-05. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  30. ^ "COMBATING BORDER VIOLENCE: THE ROLE OF INTERAGENCY COORDINATION IN INVESTIGATIONS" (PDF). 2009-07-16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  31. ^ Langlois, Jill (30 June 2012). "Mexico extradites suspect in US consulate killing". Global Post. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  32. ^ "Colombia's most-wanted drug kingpin pleads guilty in New York". The Guardian. Associated Press. 25 January 2023.
  33. ^ "USA: Kolumbianischer Drogenboss zu 45 Jahren Haft verurteilt". tagesschau.de (in German). Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  34. ^ Peltz, Jennefer (8 August 2023). "Once Colombia's most-wanted drug lord, the kingpin known as Otoniel gets 45 years in prison in US". Associated Press. Retrieved 8 August 2023.
  35. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (2003-04-15). "Founder of East Coast Bloods Is Given 50 Years". The New York Times.
  36. ^ Cite error: The named reference understaffing was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  37. ^ "Founder Of Violent "Dead Man Incorporated" Gang Sentenced To Life On Federal Racketeering, Murder And Drug Charges". United States Department of Justice, District Maryland. 2013-01-07.
  38. ^ Reynolds, Julia (24 February 2008). "New leadership, constitution for Nuestra Familia". Monterey Herald. Retrieved 2022-11-22.
  39. ^ Brick, Michael (February 6, 2007). "Detectives' Killer Breaks Windows in Jail". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  40. ^ Hays, Tom (July 24, 2013). "Ronell Wilson, NY Cop Killer, Gets Death Penalty". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 25 July 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  41. ^ "Onyeri sentenced to life in prison for Judge Kocurek shooting".
  42. ^ "Onyeri receives maximum sentence for attempted murder of judge".
  43. ^ Maass, Brian (June 9, 2021). "Serial Killer Scott Kimball Moved Out Of Colorado". KCNC-TV. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  44. ^ "Federal Prisoners Charged for Murder of Cellmate". FBI. October 3, 2012. Archived from the original on April 30, 2023. Retrieved 2024-02-23.
  45. ^ "Federal Inmate Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder of Fellow Prisoner". United States Department of Justice. April 13, 2015. Archived from the original on May 13, 2023. Retrieved 2024-02-23.

External links[edit]