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Home > Americas, Government, Military & War, World's Most > The World’s Most Secure Prison: ADX Florence

The World’s Most Secure Prison: ADX Florence

ADX Florence, built south of Florence Colorado in 1994, is the most secure prison in the United States prison system. Commonly referred to as a “Supermax” prison, it has 490 beds in a compound which encompasses 37 acres. The prison was designed to house prisoners deemed too dangerous or high-profile for regular incarceration, and nearly 95% of all inmates that have been sent to Florence were transfers with histories of violent behavior in other prison facilities. The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledges ADX Florence as being the most secure prison in the world.

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ADX Florence is known for its harsh conditions; inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The hour they are allowed out is into a bigger cell with vaulted ceilings called the “empty swimming pool.” This room has a 4-inch by 4-foot skylight as the only window. It is designed to prevent the prisoners from knowing where they are, and they still spend this time alone.

For at least the first three years, prisoners are not allowed to come into contact with other prisoners at any time – anywhere on the premises. Over time, good behavior can earn inmates more “outside” time, and for the most fortunate a possible transfer back to a less-secure prison can await.

The cell furniture is limited to a desk, stool, and a bed, and each is constructed of poured concrete. The toilets are designed to shut off if plugged and the showers are on timers. Rooms may have mirrors, lights, radios, and in very rare instances televisions – but these are used as privileges based on behavior and are seldom awarded.

There is no mess hall; food is hand-delivered to each inmate by the guards. The prison has a multitude of motion detectors and cameras, 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors, and 12-foot high razor wire fences. As an added level of security, laser beams, pressure pads, and attack dogs guard the area surrounding the prison’s outlying fences.

Conditions are described as harsh, but clean and fair; it would be difficult to classify the prisoners as being “unfairly treated” given the circumstances which likely got them there. Former ADX wardens have described the place as “a cleaner version of Hell.”

The prison operates under the strategy of sensory deprivation and solitude. Inmates are left to their own thoughts, which often leads to hallucinations, memory loss, and increasingly irritable behavior.

Famous Residents

ADX Florence is home to some of this country’s most violent and evil criminals; it is also the number-one holding facility for convicted terrorists. As of the date of this article, the prison houses over 400 violent criminals including those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 2001 World Trade Center Attacks. There are other notable criminals such as the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, shoe bomber Richard Reid, Oklahoma City bomber accomplice Terry Nichols, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, and Soviet spy Robert Hanssen (all pictured above).

One of the most famous residents is Thomas Silverstein (at left), a convicted murderer and former Aryan Brotherhood leader who has committed four additional murders while imprisoned. He currently holds the record of being the longest resident of solitary confinement in the United States prison system, having been in solitary since 1983. Silverstein is often credited with being one of the reasons the ADX Supermax was designed due to his uncontrollable activities in other prisons.

Defenders of the Supermax prison point out that criminals housed inside have previously shown no regard for human life on multiple occasions, with many having committed murders in other prisons around the country in addition to their initial heinous crimes.

Historically, the addition of another life sentence to a prisoner who already has one hasn’t proved successful. Harsher penalties were needed to restore order and deter prisoners from killing prison guards. The threat of being transferred to solitary confinement at ADX Florence is the best deterrent in the prison system The United States has against violent crime.


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Typical accomodations:

Satellite & Map of ADX Florence: click here

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  1. king_hil
    July 12, 2011 at 21:21

    5-star hotel. looks really expensive.

  2. Akiyi
    January 18, 2012 at 17:32

    Wouldn’t want to end up there!!

  3. Charlene
    April 1, 2012 at 19:26

    Drug lords should be placed here.

    • Will
      April 11, 2012 at 11:04

      Or perhaps we should just end the useless and counter-productive war on drugs?

    • Jen
      September 14, 2012 at 04:47

      Charlene, They are there.

  4. jen
    April 15, 2012 at 21:32

    CHILD MOLESTERS SHOULD BE PUT THERE!!

    • jon
      May 15, 2012 at 05:24

      those people go to regular prisons. this place is no place for such simple crimes. yeah. simple.

      • Tyler Geberl
        March 7, 2013 at 18:45

        Al Qaeda should go there

        • jay
          March 17, 2013 at 23:01

          they are there

      • MFcannon
        November 21, 2013 at 22:59

        You call that a simple crime. One of the worst crimes are child molesters.

        • Aatos
          May 5, 2014 at 04:03

          Child molesters don’t blow up buildings and have dozens killed because they were pissed. It’s a waste of resources to put them in such a place.

        • Jonathan
          May 7, 2014 at 20:26

          They go to regular prison and get the crap beat out of them from regular murders…

  5. Alan
    April 16, 2012 at 09:35

    Black Dolphin in Russia is the most secure IMHO. No escapes, and only ONE prisoner has been transferred out. Check it out on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbfjuYtkJRE&feature=related.

    • Sean
      September 15, 2013 at 06:46

      So what you’re saying is that you know better than the people from the guinness world records?

    • Mar
      September 27, 2013 at 07:22

      Totally agree with Alan. ADX looks like sunshine and rainbows compared to Black Dolphin.

    • Robin
      June 22, 2014 at 04:51

      Very true. Black Dolphin is the most secure. Guinness may not have been given access.

  6. john
    May 23, 2012 at 02:05

    Any country who invests in the amount of individuals who are incarcerated is a capitalist country …. point blank … invest in hotels in summer, or starbucks … give me a break

    • shaundar khan
      October 30, 2013 at 10:31

      AT LEVEL ONE:It’s better to create excellent kindergartens for children to be taught manners and good behaviours and then good schools,colleges and universities to make good human biengs and proffessionals.This will reduce the cause of committing crime. AT LEVEL TWO:Prisons should be transformed into Civility Centres.Inmates should be taught how good human biengs are supposed to live in soceity, and their progress should be gauged by their own descriptions and answers to humanity questions.Nothing is impossible for a state.if a state wants that it be turned into a heaven,it all needs to commit itself to bringing the conditions of a heaven,otherwise it will remain a hell,with severe prisons and torture centres for its own and allien citizens.

      • John Herrmann
        October 30, 2013 at 10:57

        Not sure that would work on psychopathic and psychotic killers. Re-education for “better manners and better behaviors” seems to me simplistic. Teaching Ted Kozinski to say please and thank you might not stop him from mailing bombs to people.

      • Davin Watkins
        January 13, 2014 at 22:35

        Have you ever worked with or known some of these people. “Let’s just teach the lion to be a vegan.” Time and again, this philosophy of yours has proven unsuccessful. We continue to test so called proven programs for rehabilitation, only to watch them fail at the behest of the experts, who most likely have never actually worked with these monsters. The experts learned about them in University, and became a policy author for that which she/he may be book smart, yet has no real world knowledge of.

  7. john
    May 23, 2012 at 02:08

    there are people there, that i grew up with, that should have at least gotten 25 to life with the possibility of parole in Otisville. This is too much and a waste of time

  8. June 9, 2012 at 04:28

    I find it ironic that prisoners who have forfeited their right to live in society by murdering other people, often with random bombings of innocent strangers, can now complain about forced isolation from other people. What about the rights of the rest of us to be separated from psychopaths who commit such crimes? ADX-Florence was born out of the necessity of protecting decent people from those unfit to live in society. And in many cases the inmates who populate this super-max facility have proven themselves unfit to even live among other prisoners.

    • Jeremy
      December 19, 2012 at 10:36

      It seems the people here should just be killed. There’s no reason for the government to use taxpayers monney to keep these people alive

      • Michelle
        December 30, 2012 at 11:48

        the government uses taxpayers money to kill them, as well.

      • Heartsinohio
        March 17, 2013 at 12:49

        I agree…bullets are cheap. Such a waste of money here…line em up and shoot them

        • June 28, 2013 at 19:17

          these people are in jail for taking lives taking the place of god, should they be taken out, who am i to decide i am not god and neither are any of us. So by killing these people we become no better than they are.And such an easy way out. Let them live in hell on earth until god decides its time for them to go to the real one. adx is perfect let them rot. the only rights they should have is
          to live. all others should be taken no matter how inhumane.

      • mackenzie
        July 25, 2013 at 10:36

        Honestly, in my opinion, the people that are here deserve to live the rest of their lives in this hell. They shouldn’t been given the satisfaction of dying. They should live the rest of their lives like this people the friends and family of those they destroyed have to live the rest of their lives in sorrow.
        Just my opinion though!

        • enoughisenough
          March 13, 2014 at 15:23

          I agree that complete isolation would not be easy for a sane individual, personally I don’t find these people to be sane. What I find insane is using taxpayer money to support this refuse. Although this is not a hotel, they are still getting 3 squares a day, a bed to sleep in out of the heat ,cold,rain, snow, etc. Oh, and free healthcare. Pretty sad when you consider all the many homeless that are out there through no fault of their own. I thought I had heard that it costs around 100,000 pr yr to house a max security inmate. Now that’s insane! Some are so against the death penalty, would you still be against it if a friend or family was the one that they murdered? You will find no bleeding heart here. Obviously the current system is not working. True criminals are not afraid of going to prison. We need to do something to make them scared. The way it is now seems more to me like pampering. Isolation should be just one of the conditions. A cold dark room with a dirt floor, stifling heat and a day filled with brutal work would make me feel better about this system. Prisoners should not have it better than the homeless!

  9. Chiekotz
    July 5, 2012 at 16:28

    I think ADX is better than the death penalty. Just imagine looking at a wall for the rest of your life. Compared to being put to sleep by lethal injection.

    • JC
      December 17, 2012 at 22:02

      Chiekotz,

      Have you ever been in ADX. I used to be a C.O. in the Seg Unit of a prison and I’d rather be dead.

    • May 27, 2013 at 07:48

      death iz better than being treated like u are an animal..

      • cory
        June 20, 2013 at 13:42

        They are animals

        • Robin
          June 22, 2014 at 05:13

          True Cory! I believe animals are better.

  10. July 22, 2012 at 15:30

    I’d probably rather be dead than stay at the ADX.

  11. September 12, 2012 at 23:56

    I would like to spend a few weeks their to see how bad it is

    • shaundar khan
      October 30, 2013 at 10:16

      u have a good wish.better barter yr time with an inmate,he will get yr comforts and God will bless u in the next life….good bargain as a christian!

  12. September 30, 2012 at 14:34

    Its no human contact silly

  13. D Doyle
    December 30, 2012 at 17:26

    Prison is a requirement. ADX Florence seems to have gone to the max in order to keep their inmates on program….or have they,how far can you push?

  14. Red
    January 4, 2013 at 13:14

    It is definitely better to keep someone in prison for the rest of their life than put them to death with the kindness of lethal injection. IMHO

  15. Tyler Geberl
    March 7, 2013 at 18:47

    Al Qaeda should go there because he committed so many crimes and killed hundreds of innocent people!

    • March 15, 2013 at 14:43

      I laughed. ;-)

      • Michael
        May 11, 2014 at 19:23

        This is why I feel safe being a a Colorado resident

    • Patrick McKee
      August 18, 2013 at 11:04

      Are you being serious? Al Qaeda is not a person it is a group -.-

    • shaundar khan
      October 30, 2013 at 10:49

      The Clergy in any religion is a danger because it spreads fundamentalism and divides humanity It bases its illogical teachings on unconfirmed and scientifically unverifiable views regarding Existance,Life and Universal Phenomenon.When light comes,darkness vanishes.Spread of positive knowlege regarding humanity,human virtues,human duties towards life and ecology, common human problems and needs,and social interaction can reduce such problems.The US and Western Europe with so much resources can defend humanity against the clerical divisions,be they by the Muslim clerics or other clergies i.e Christian or Hindu etc.

  16. Jeff
    April 19, 2013 at 17:39

    One day, someone’s gonna escape, I know it.

    • JEff
      April 26, 2013 at 08:39

      if one day a person escapes that will be someone smart

      • JEff
        April 26, 2013 at 08:40

        poeple should enter and do sometesting on it and see if its possible

      • Michael robertson
        September 3, 2013 at 16:27

        With constant planning, pin-point accuracy and nothing short of pure genius its possible to either escape or kill yourself (probably pretty much the same thing there lol)

  17. James
    April 19, 2013 at 19:30

    TV though? c’mon that stuff shouldn’t be available. they should sit and rot in boredom for the rest of their useless lives.

    • May 4, 2013 at 05:30

      No one will ever escape adx

    • mackenzie
      July 25, 2013 at 10:39

      They don’t get TVs unless they earn it. And from what I have read it is a very rare reward.

  18. JusticeAdvocate
    June 14, 2013 at 02:26

    I can understand the death penalty as an only fair price for some crimes where life or happiness of another is forever destroyed, but I could never understand the vindictive evil soul that finds pleasure and satisfaction in torturing the criminal. Only God can appropriate and inflict torture and retribution. The role of the government and society should be limited to removing the dangerous element from further damaging the societal interest and rehabbing the criminal conduct of the individual with least and efficient expense. Incarceration has proved to be a failure and costly. In many instances, the death penalty could be more appropriate than incarceration, but the problem remains in the judicial process where access to justice depends on the individual fortune and political status. Where “reasonable doubt” remains vaguely defined and more dependent on jury selection, the death penalty can only remain a bigger nightmare than crime itself. But even if life sentence becomes inevitable, a human retains many rights among which the right to basic physical needs, mental and intellectual growth, social bonding and interaction, and even the right to earn an income if so desired. Experience has shown that the more human the prison conditions are, the more probable the rehabilitation of the criminal behavior is. In the US, the prison system has become more of a commerce, political agenda, and small towns economy than an effective governmental function to maintain peace and order.

    • k
      June 15, 2013 at 21:20

      hi , i dont agree with everything you said but I do agree with some… having know a few people who have graced the prison system (stupid stuff – suspended DL or DUI) I was stunned to learn of the financial gain and rampit abuse of skewing numbers for federal monies…. not to mention the lack of simple information to friends and family about process – Those who come visit or see if they can offer assistance to someone incarcerated are treated like criminals too! I had NO idea and bought into the nightly news about prison systems… personally I think the corruption starts at the top and meeting their budgets and works its way down… but ok I am getting a little off topic – just my two cents

  19. Ms. Carriere
    July 28, 2013 at 14:58

    This is the worst place any human can ever be placed….I can understand if the person had killed for not defending him self, but as an desire, or raping children, but for being blamed for robbing a bank with out evidence and place on death roll for protecting themselves from a”green light” on his life, and then lied on by Deputies ” this guy in a treat to society he attacked a guard with a 10 Inch knife” and the person was in death role solitaire, how did he get the 10 inch knife when a person is stripe searched before thrown into the grimmie cell without clothing…Figure that one out!

  20. rob
    August 22, 2013 at 00:00

    Black dolphin is the most secure prison iv ever seen. Watch the documentary on Russia’s tuffest prisons. When I saw that place and how its ran. There can’t be a prison in the world more harsh and secure then that one. Unless there’s guys being tortured some where else. That place and the rules there. Nothing compares

    • matt
      September 25, 2013 at 14:32

      There are places in the world where torture is commonplace. Do you remember any of the horror stories of the insane things done to inmates by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq? While the isolation would be brutal in a supermax prison, i think most people would deal with that than physical torture on some regular basis.

  21. John Herrmann
    September 4, 2013 at 12:00

    Seems to me Gitmo is pretty secure and quite harsh. Many held there similar to ADX
    but for political reasons. Many are not violent offenders. It makes Gitmo quit a horror story. ADX prisoners do deserve what they get. Some at Gitmo do not.

  22. jjw
    September 13, 2013 at 04:06

    is too good for the scum

  23. John Herrmann
    September 15, 2013 at 08:38

    That Russian prison someone mention should probably be the harshest. And how does one escape in winter, which is probably 8 months of the year? By the way, the link to
    the YouTube video has been cancelled by YouTube. It doesn’t work.

  24. bob paccione
    October 28, 2013 at 16:31

    I was an employee of the FEDERAL BAUREAU of Prisions for 27 years I have worked at 7or 8 institutions from camps to medium security institutions to the the penitentaries During my tenure I have had number a jobs inside the ferderal prison system. This has enabled me to be right in the thick of things I have seen escapes, killings, suicides, rapes, good conditions and poor contitions. The day to day operations of an institution largely contribute to the amount of unrest that may be at the JOINT.
    Imates “act out” when conditions are poor, thru murder, taking hostges, killing snitches, trying to control other groups.setting fires, food strikes and general destruction In the Supermax, they have made it so there is very little movement They come outfor one hour a day to recreate in a concrete cage. After that “recreation” the inmate in back in his cell the other 23 hours a day. The window in their cell is four inches wide and three foot long. When you look out you only see the sky. This is a securtiy mesure used to cause disoriention of th prisioner

  25. John Herrmann
    October 28, 2013 at 16:50

    Even though all work often becomes just day-to-day going there,coming home. Often if not most of the time, your experience for those 27 years much have been fascinating. Also, few jobs/professions require 100% focus, and you jobs mostly did. It is like being a pilot landing and taking off all the time for 27 years.

  26. October 15, 2014 at 20:06

    Long term solitary confinement is a human rights violation and torture. I do not support the use of torture in any form. Solitary confinement costs twice as much as high security incarceration it causes psychoses and inmates released from solitary are more likely to hurt people even without a prior history of violence. When the UN asked if we systematically used solitary confinement in our prisons Obama lied and said we did not. Solitary is not reserved for the worst of the worst – an inmate who spit on a guard was placed there. While there may be some punitive value in using it for short term punishment there is no justification for long term use. The entire prison system needs reform. The drug war needs to end now.

  27. October 18, 2014 at 12:13

    I was one of the thousands of people who worked on the construction of it, back in the early 90’s and it is secure, triply secure. No way out, or in, for that matter.Every aspect of the cells is controlled by the guards. It the seg. a prisoner is behind at least 4 steel door/bar combos. The bad boys can be controlled–

  1. September 12, 2013 at 08:48
  2. November 15, 2013 at 16:26
  3. May 15, 2014 at 03:42

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