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Tsarnaev moved to supermax prison. Here’s how he’ll live

The ADX maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved. AFP/Getty Images

Convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the “The Alcatraz of the Rockies,’’ according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ inmate tracker.

The facility, ADX, houses Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Tsarnaev was moved to ADX from a high-security facility in the same complex. Eventually, Tsarnaev will be sent to prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where federal death row inmates are executed.

Living quarters

The cells at ADX are about 87 square feet, according to Amnesty International, and the only furnishings are “a fixed bunk, desk and a stool, as well as a shower and a toilet.’’


Mahmud Abouhalima, who became an ADX inmate after being convicted for participating in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, described life in his cell:

“Sitting in a small box in a walking distance of eight feet, this little hole becomes my world, my dining room, reading and writing area, sleeping, walking, urinating, and defecating. I am virtually living in a bathroom, and this concept has never left my mind in ten years.’’

Many of the inmates spend 23 hours alone in their cells each day. ADX takes measures so extreme that “other than when being placed in restraints and escorted by guards, prisoners may spend years without touching another human being,’’ according to Amnesty’s report.

A 2006 Telegraph report detailed the experience of shoebomber Richard Reid at ADX:

“For 23 hours a day, Reid is locked down, confined to his cell. From computerised control booths, staff monitor the ranges using remote-controlled video cameras and motion sensors. Every half hour, day and night, he is checked through the windows in his cell doors and must stand by his bed at designated times, five times a day as the staff take a head-count.’’

Meals are eaten in the cell, passed through a slot in the door.

Tsarnaev will have few options of what to eat (though non-pork items are offered to Muslim inmates). He won’t have the option of not eating.

According to a 2011 report by 60 Minutes, inmates who go on hunger strikes are force-fed.

“There have been frequent hunger strikes among the Islamic terrorist inmates inside Supermax and to keep the inmates alive there are often force feedings. That’s when an inmate is restrained and liquid nourishment is poured down a tube in his nose.’’


Prisoners in general population can write letters and are allowed two 15-minute, non-legal phone calls each month, according to Amnesty’s report.

Abouhalima described how limited communication is for inmates:

“Over the last six years, three of my uncles, my grandfather, my aunt, and my uncle’s daughter have all passed away. I submitted request after request just to send condolence letters to my family mourning these deaths. I also requested to speak with my aunt before she died of cancer. They denied all of these requests…’’

One former ADX inmate told 60 Minutes: “Your connections to the outside. Your family. Through phone calls, visits, all those are pretty much stopped at the ADX.’’


There are restrictions on what can be read. The Telegraph report described the 12-inch television set Reid had access to. It had a see-through back so officers could check for things hidden in the set or missing parts:

“The television delivers a diet of “educational’’ programmes such as anger management and literacy, a basic package of entertainment channels, and an in-house quiz. “It’s a sort of Trivial Pursuit, with five or six different questions and the chance to win a candy bar if he gets them right,’’ said one insider.’’

Once Tsarnaev is moved to death row, here’s how he would be executed, barring a successful appeal.


The Alcatraz of the Rockies:

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