ADX Florence aka “The Alcatraz of the Rockies” or “The Last Worst Place” is the federal supermax prison. The other common name is simply “Supermax,” because most of the general public is unaware that supermax facilities exist in the state system. It serves two purposes, one of which is to house escapees and “worst of the worst” federal inmates, like the Aryan Brotherhood shot-caller who got tired of killing inmates and killed a couple guards while he was in maximum security. Its other purpose is to house high-proile inmates like John Gotti and mass-bomber dudes like McVeigh and Unabomber. Guys which are too high-profile like that aren’t safe in regular prisons (and espceially not state systems) because if you’re already serving double life you’re never getting out anyway so why not be the guy who pulled a decap on John Gotti?
It doesn’t look like much from the air, because the majority of it is actually underground.
This housing unit at ADX is atypical, because in most units the cells are angled diagonally in the block so that inmates can’t see each others cells.
Because ADX is federal, there is much less abuse than in the other facilities I’ve posted here. This is not to say that there isn’t any, just that it is much less. There were a group of guards known as “The Cowboys.” The Cowboys were your basic abusive prison guards, mixing urine and feces into inmate food, spraying them with fire extiguishers, putting burning paper on them, forcing them to run in shackles until the shackles cut their legs to the bone. This was done primarily to nonviolent drug offenders, and heavily biased toward black inmates.
Even despite the high-tech security at ADX, inmate violence is not unheard of. A high-ranking Eme was in there, and because he was suspected of snitching on shot-callers he got taken out. Whether guards were bribed or the hitter simply waited until the right moment to take advantage of understaffing and undertraining is not clear; but it’s also irrelevant. What is relevant is that ADX or no, SHU or no, snitching on an Eme shot-caller is certain death. If they want you, they’re going to get you- and even the most secure supermax can’t save you. Remember that this gang was essentially created by California DOC.
Many inmates in there still contniue to run gangs on the outside, because in many cases supermax is super lax.
Woody Harrelson’s dad died in ADX.
ABC news did a piece called How to Survive Supermax.