FLORENCE, CO (CBS) – It is as isolated as the prisoners who call it home. The prison called ADX Florence is a tomb for the living.
“To me it’s life after death,” says Bob Hood who was warden at this Supermax prison for five years. He spoke exclusively to the I-Team in detail about a prisoner’s sparse existence here, two hours south of Denver.READ MORE: UMass Memorial Health In Worcester Runs Out Of ICU Beds
“Even if the behaviors are good, it’s pretty much a 23 hour day in the cell, one hour outside. And even outside it’s not a walk in the park. It’s pretty much a caged environment,” Hood explained.
Inside the Supermax, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would join a notorious group that includes the Unabomber, and Terry Nichols, who participated in the Oklahoma City Bombings. Islamic terrorists are also housed here, like 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attack as well as the “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid.
Hood says Tsarnaev would be no match for them or the 400 other hardened criminals at ADX. He’ll always have to be in solitary.
“He’s young, he’s not streetwise and he’s very susceptible to assault I think, because the average inmate would like to hurt him,” Hood said. “His life will always be in danger.”
ADX Florence is secretive. Media is never allowed inside. The only available pictures are from a federal lawsuit filed by mentally ill inmates.
A prisoner lives in a 12 foot by 7 foot cell. It has a shower, a toilet, a concrete slab covered with a thin mattress.
One 15 minute phone call per month and a small black and white TV may seem like luxuries, but Hood says they are tools so the guards have something to take away. Each prisoner has different restrictions on the letters they can receive and which newspapers, TV or magazines they are allowed to see.
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In the rare time outside, prisoners are kept in cages. If sent to Supermax, Tsarnaev may never again see the sun.
“It is as stark as stark can be. It was not designed with humanity in mind,” Hood says.
“The isolation, the solitary, you know, day to day you are trying to keep your basic humanity from slipping through your fingers,” says Ray Luc Levasseur of Maine.
Levasseur spent five years here after being convicted of bombing public buildings. He says the sensory deprivation can drive a man insane. Lawsuits show it has. Inmates have mutilated themselves and been force fed after hunger strikes.
“You just being to degrade over time,” Levassuer explains. “You feel it.”
And so as Tsarnaev’s lawyers fight to save his life, both the former inmate and the former warden agree, he may wish they hadn’t.
“I think it’s a false choice in the sense that I think they are both death penalties,” says Levasseur.
“What is the worst possible punishment?,” the I-Team asked Hood.
“If they want revenge, their hearts will say kill him. If they’re really looking for revenge and they know the system, they should be asking for life imprisonment at the Supermax,” he replied.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Reports 5,179 New COVID Cases; More Than 1,000 Now Hospitalized
Inmates can earn transfers to other prisons but it is exceptionally rare. As Hood explains, it’s hard to get into ADX but even harder to get out.