Voices from ADX: Living “Inside America’s Toughest Prison”

by | April 2, 2015

The New York Times Magazine feature story on the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, or ADX, in Florence, Colorado, appeared under the headline “Inside America’s Toughest Prison.” In fact, no journalist has been inside ADX for at least 15 years, but 400 men live there, some for years or decades.

The story has suddenly spurred interest in the federal supermax prison, which its own former warden described as “a clean version of hell.” A number of journalists have been writing about this torture chamber for years, including Susan Greene in The Colorado Independent and the Dart Society Report, Alan Prendergast in Westword, and Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic. We’ve written about it ourselves, here on Solitary Watch, and have also published many pieces of writing by men currently or formerly held in ADX.

In light of the heightened interest in the prison, we provide below links to the voices of people who know what it is like to live inside the walls of ADX.

“Freedom Shares My Cell”

Head Cases

Analyzing Isolation

Life in H Unit, ADX

“A Prison Where the Building Becomes the Shackles”

“Finally Out and Among the Living”

“Just Half Crazy and Trying to Hold Onto the Other Half”

“A Bloody Nightmare”

“Loneliness Is a Destroyer of Humanity”

“No Longer a Part of This World”

10,220 Days in Extreme Solitary Confinement

adx-cell (1)
A cell at ADX.


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  • Damien McLeod

    Some human beings are so mentally aberrant they will happily torture, (physically, and/or, mentally) other’s, and terrorize, brutalize, rape, threaten, assault, or kill, any persons they come into contact with or are allowed to associate with, be these other inmates in the facility where they are housed, or correction officers, or administrative staff.
    I can see only four ways to “deal with or control” a, person this mentally damaged, and to keep other people safe from them; either execute them, drug them into the Twilight Zone for the rest of their lives, lobotomize them, or super-max them (and the only humane way to super-max someone is to permit the them option of {Self Euthanasia}, other wise they themselves are being tortured. Since there is no known “cure” for their “illness”, if anyone can think or any other way to keep others safe from their depredations please let me know.

  • Nil_Darps

    The NY Times wrote:

    “Tommy Silverstein, is now at the ADX. He has been in solitary confinement for the past 22 years.”

    This is an under statement as evidenced by Solitary Watch’s own article titled

    “America’s Most Isolated Federal Prisoner Describes 10,220 Days in Extreme Solitary Confinement”

    on May 5, 2011 in which you wrote:

    “Thomas Silverstein, who has been described as America’s “most isolated man,” has been held in an extreme form of solitary confinement under a “no human contact” order for 28 years.”

    That makes it just a few weeks shy of 32 years of isolation by my count, most of which, 28 years, you described as an extreme form of isolation.

    However neither article has counted Silverstein’s time served in Marion’s Control Unit which has also been described as extreme isolation unit on Solitary Watch in an article tilted:

    “Supermax Psych: “Behavior Modification” at Marion Federal Prison”

    on January 22, 2011.

    Indeed one could go even further by counting Silverstein’s time served in various other isolation units such as San Quentin’s Control Unit when he was still a 19 year old teenager. Or going even further Silverstein has spent time in juvenile institutions isolation units such as the CYA facility at Chino.

    My point is that Silverstein is a case study on the “ineffectiveness” of these units in preventing future violence of, or rehabilitation of, those placed in them.

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