Mexican drug lord El Chapo faces spending the rest of his life at one of America’s most notorious prisons – to ensure he never escapes again.
The convicted drug smuggler, whose real name is Joaquin Guzman, has a record of jailbreaks, having already escaped two high-security Mexican prisons before being captured and extradited to the United States.
Experts now believe that Guzman is an ideal candidate for the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado – a facility so secure and remote that it has been called the ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’
Cameron Lindsay, a retired warden who has run three federal lock-ups, believes El Chapo, a former leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, ‘fits the bill perfectly’.
Located outside an old mining town about two hours south of Denver, Florence’s hardened buildings house the nation’s most violent offenders, with many of its 400 inmates held alone for 23 hours a day in 7ft by 12ft cells with fixed furnishings made of reinforced concrete.
Among those who call it home are Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols.
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But Guzman, due to be sentenced in June for smuggling enormous amounts of narcotics into the US and having a hand in dozens of murders, would stand out even from this infamous roster because of his almost mythical reputation for breaking out.
That includes a 2015 escape from the maximum-security Altiplano prison in central Mexico, where he communicated with accomplices for weeks by mobile phone, slipped into an escape hatch beneath his shower, hopped on the back of a waiting motorcycle and sped through a mile-long, hand-dug tunnel to freedom.
Bribery is widely believed to have enabled that jailbreak, as well as a 2001 escape in which Guzman was smuggled out of another top-security Mexican prison in a laundry basket.
However, any chance of similar methods at the facility in Colorado – known as ADX Florence – seem unlikely to have the same level of success.
Prisoners spend years in solitary confinement and often go days ‘with only a few words spoken to them’, an Amnesty International report found.
One former prisoner described the lock-up as a ‘high-tech version of hell, designed to shut down all sensory perception’.
Most inmates are given a television, but their only real view of the outside world is a 4in window whose design prevents them from even determining where they are housed in the facility.
Human interaction is minimal as prisoners eat all meals in the solitude of their own cells, within feet of their toilets.
The facility is guarded by razor-wire fences, gun towers, heavily armed patrols and attack dogs.
Burl Cain, former warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary, said: ‘If ever there were an escape-proof prison, it’s the facility at Florence.
‘It’s the prison of all prisons.’
While federal authorities have not said for certain where El Chapo will be housed, he is staring at ‘a sentence from which there is no escape and no return”, according to US attorney Richard Donoghue.