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April 22, 2019

Chapo’s likely new home will be a 100% escape-proof ‘supermax’ prison in Colorado

February 13, 2019
Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, former head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, being escorted in Mexico City following his capture in 2014. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP)

He’s not bustin’ outta this one.

When convicted cocaine kingpin El Chapo is sentenced June 25 for a litany of crimes that’ll likely keep him behind bars for the rest of his life, chances are good his new address will be a notorious “super” maximum security prison in Colorado that boasts a 100% no-escape record.


The former head of Mexico’s vicious Sinaloa cartel, whose real name is Joaquin Guzman Loera, helped forge his legend with a pair of daring, straight-out-of-Hollywood prison breaks. In 2001, he hid in a laundry cart pushed along by a corrupt guard; 14 years later Chapo rode to freedom on a motorcycle through a 1½-mile tunnel built under the shower of his cell.

But things will be different if, as expected, he’s shipped off to the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colo., a “Supermax” facility affectionately known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies. Built in 1994 and located 90 miles south of Denver, it houses 400 of the nation’s highly violent and high-profile inmates, including a who’s-who of terrorists, traitors, traffickers and gangland toughs.

“This is a prison like no other,” said Martin Horn, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction and a professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Guard towers loom over the administrative maximum security facility, the highest security area at the Federal Prison in Florence, Colo., Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007.
Guard towers loom over the administrative maximum security facility, the highest security area at the Federal Prison in Florence, Colo., Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007. (CHRIS MCLEAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“It’s built on the side of a mountain, very difficult to escape from and very tightly run, with prisoners’ movements constantly being monitored (by video cameras). They’re frequently searched, and when they are moved they’re cuffed and shackled, which all contributes to the high levels of security.”

The billions in drug money Chapo made and then used to pay off Mexican prison guards won’t help him in ADX, where he can expect to spend 23 hours of his day alone in a cell made of thick concrete walls with small, angled windows that only offer a view of the sky — built that way so prisoners can’t see the Colorado landscape and know exactly where they are.

He’s also likely to never make contact with any of his fellow infamous inmates, including 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui, domestic terrorist Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing, “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui, Ramzi Yousef of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Luis Felipe, leader of the New York chapter of the Latin Kings, and Robert Hanssen, the turncoat FBI agent.

Related Gallery

Inside the safe house and escape tunnel used by Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’

“Prisoners are for the most part kept apart so that they’re not able to collude and there’s no breach of security,” said Horn. “The likelihood of escape is very, very low. But you can never say never.”

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