The following comes from a prisoner currently in Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, describing the three years he spent at the United State Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado. He describes the facility as exceptional in its ability to overwhelm prisoners with the sense that they are no longer a part of society, and the bleak physical nature of the facility. He is currently corresponding with Solitary Watch on the conditions at Red Onion.–Sal Rodriguez
The moment you set your eyes on it it’s a mixed ball of emotions and feelings that hit you, it’s extraordinarily spectacular–the ADX facility. I have seen many prisons/penitentiaries not even Red Onion can compare to the federal supermax, it was built to be a spectacular view of intimidation from the moment you set your eyes on it. The psychological intimidation starts without even setting one foot into the ADX and the remoteness also adds a touch that you are no longer to be a part of the world the moment you arrive you realize you’ve reached a level of solitary living that is specifically designed to keep you totally separated from human contact–it’s a chilling feeling.
The sensory deprivation starts from the moment you arrive into the intake, the deadly silence adds to the reality that you’re not in a normal prison…what was normal was the humiliating experience of becoming a new inmate. After the intake process I was shackled and box-cuffed and escorted by a number of corrections officers with black batons at hand and ready to beat me down if I made a wrong move.
I was escorted down a series of never ending, lengthy wide and tall hallways that were painted an off white and were at a downhill angle which make your ears pop as you move down them. It’s just another drop added to the emotional and psychological design and purpose of solitary life. I was then housed in the famous D-Unit…The confined space that you are housed in is a 7-by-9 foot sound proof cell that comes with a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed, a shower within the cell with a timer to conserve water and prevent flooding, a sink with no taps, just touch buttons…a toilet with a valve that shuts off the water after two flushes automatically for an hour, an immovable concrete desk and concrete stool, a polished steel mirror riveted to the concrete wall and a thirteen inch black and white television encased in plexiglass to prevent tampering.
I have been to many different prisons and none can compare to ADX’s conditions. Of course I’m not taking away the fact that the animalistic treatment isn’t the same when it comes down to the beatings, torture, and psychological abuses…These places are designed to drive you crazy, you can feel the madness closing in on you. You can feel it eating away at you and there is nothing you can do to stop it…you can slow it down by writing and reading but that’s all it does, slow down the process of mental madness.