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“ I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowed on a velvet cushion.”

—Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862

[Walden (1854)]

The ADX is the major league. It’s where you go if you’re such a fucking menace that you cannot be effectively managed at any other institution, even the SMU. You’ll hear it called such colorful names as the “Alcatraz”, “Limbo”, or simply “Supermax”. If you like to kill people while you’re incarcerated, or a super high profile or powerful you’ll end up at the ADX.

I have interviewed a fellow prisoner who spent quite a stretch in the ADX. His insights are profound and give as much as an outsider who has never directly experienced the ADX can probably understand about the actual psychic texture of the place. He, being rightfully concerned about the potential for retaliation by the powers that be, has asked me to hold back on posting the interview until he is release from Federal Custody later this year. As soon as he is safely out the door, I will share our conversation.

The different wings of the ADX are designed for prisoners with different security requirements. Each area is run in its own way, with more or less privileges, and has different standard operating procedures in place. They are as followed:

  • General Population. Located in the Delta, Echo, Fox and Golf wings. So you’ve done enough to warrant the ADX, but you aren’t ordering hits or terrorist strikes out on the street. This is where you’ll end up.

  • Intermediate/Transitory Population. Located in Joker and Kilo wing. This is for prisoners who have danced to the tune that the ADX staff wanted them to and are on the track to get back to regular prison.

  • SHU. How the fuck can a place that is essentially a big SHU, have a SHU Unit is completely beyond me.

  • Range 13. A group of only four cells inside the SHU that is totally isolated. You probably have to really work hard to get in there. Talk about exclusive.

  • Control Unit. This for… you guessed it, control. How any more control can be exerted I don’t know. I’ve never known anyone who has ever ended up there, I’m just assuming that they duct tape you to the wall. I do know it takes literally  years to get off this unit once you’ve been put there. Like five years or more.

  • Special Security Unit. Located in H wing (I assume they skip using the phonetic alphabet identifier ‘Hotel” to avoid pissing off its residents). This is the spot for terrorist. Those poor, stupid bastards are subject to what is called Special Administrative Measure (SAM). That means they get one highly monitored phone call a month, have all their incoming and outgoing mail read, and any questionable content redacted by a censor, and are generally under more scrutiny than a regular ADX prisoner so they can’t issue and “Death to America!” Fatwas.

The ADX cells are singles. The beds are concrete slabs instead of the usual steel (no making pig iron swords? Damn!). The toilet and sink are the standard one piece USP fare. There’s a hot water spigot so you can drink coffee and make the ever present ramen instant noodle soups. You can earn a television so you don’t completely lose your mind. There’s a vertical 40 some odd inch by 4 inch window that you can’t see a goddamn thing out of except a bit of sky. And, except for the terrorist cells and the step down guys at Joker and Kilo, there are showers in the cells themselves.

They do run a rec of sorts, but most of your time will be spent inside that cell. If you end up in the ADX, you’re going to be there for a good long while. Years upon years. The goal: to totally grind you down into compliance.

If you’re a complete psychotic introvert, it might not be so bad.

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