Inside America’s Most Notorious Federal Prison 

Inside America’s Most Notorious Federal Prison 


Known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”, the US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility is one of the most notorious places on our planet. This “supermax” prison (also known as the ADX) is a permanent home to the worst examples of human kind – mass murderers and terrorists.

When it became clear that the U.S. needs a new facility for “the worst of the worst”, federal government officials started planning to build a prison unlike any other.

It was decided to place this building complex in an old mining town of Florence, Colorado, and the land required for it was donated to the government by local residents. It took several years of building and about $60 million, but it was finally finished in 1994. The highest-security prison in the USA was designed to be a suitable place to hold a very small number of inmates who posed a special threat to public security.

So, what it’s like to spend your days in such a prison?

Well, the conditions are so horrible that even the former warden of the ADX described it as a “clean and silent version of hell”. Inmates are nearly forbidden from having any real contact with other human beings. They spend at least 23 hours completely alone in solitary confinement. Even though there are more than 400 inmates in the ADX, they don’t often see each other. Prisoners get their meals through a slit in a solid metal door, and they rarely get a chance to get out of the cell. Inmates are only allowed 10 hours of exercise per week which is divided between trips to a small indoor gym where there is just one chin-up bar and a visit to an outdoor yard where they still remain inside individual cages.


It is not at all uncommon for prisoners to have several days without speaking any word to anyone. In addition, they are only allowed one short phone call a month to relatives or friends, and these calls are heavily monitored. Visits are very rare, but even then inmates don’t get a chance to be close to their visitors, as they communicate by telephone and can only see each other through Plexiglas.

Prisoners do have a chance to stay in touch with what is going on outside the thick concrete walls and barbed wires of the ADX. If they behave well, they get “awarded” with the opportunity to watch a small black-and-white TV with a built-in radio in their cells. They can also get a chance to read some of the limited number of books from the prison library.

Also, the cells are specially designed not to provide anything but the feelings of loneliness and monotony for their residents. The cells are quite small, 12 by 7 feet, with solid metal doors. There is only one window, three feet high and four inches wide, so that the prisoners have a chance to watch sunsets over the Rockies. Cells are equipped with a sink-toilet and automated shower which are very close to the concrete block on which inmates sleep.

It is obvious that inmates are stripped of their humanity at the ADX.

The horrific conditions resulted in seven prisoners committing suicide since the opening of the prison. The feeling of desperation the inmates have after being just a few weeks in this “supermax” facility is only heightened by the fact that no one has ever managed to escape. This is not strange, having in mind not only how the prisoners are treated, but also that the jail itself is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by high concrete fences, miles of sharp barbed wire and guarded by regular patrols and snipers positioned in several gun towers.

The moral of the story is – do not commit any crime, because it can start a criminal career which can end in one of the worst places on Earth – “Alcatraz of the Rockies”.