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What Prison is El Chapo In?

El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, is one of the most notorious drug kingpins in history. As the former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, he oversaw a massive criminal empire that trafficked billions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States and around the world. But after multiple arrests, escapes, and recaptures, El Chapo is now serving a life sentence behind bars at a maximum security prison in the United States.

ADX Florence – The Alcatraz of the Rockies

In July 2019, El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years after being convicted on a sprawling array of drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. He was originally held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City while awaiting trial and sentencing. But in July 2019, shortly after his conviction, El Chapo was transferred to the nation’s most secure federal prison – ADX Florence in Colorado.

ADX Florence is nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” due to its remote location and stringent security measures. It was built to house the worst criminals and highest security inmates in the US prison system. The facility opened in 1994 and has a capacity to hold 490 male inmates.

Security Features of ADX Florence

ADX Florence was designed to be escape-proof and isolate dangerous inmates from the outside world. Some key security features include:

  • Remote location – Situated in Fremont County, Colorado, the prison is over 100 miles from Denver surrounded by barren land and mountains.
  • Multiple perimeter fences – The entire complex is surrounded by tall cement walls, razor wire fences, and armed guard towers.
  • Motion detectors, cameras, pressure pads – Advanced security sensors monitor inmate movements at all times.
  • Controlled inmate movements – Inmates at ADX are confined alone for 23 hours per day in specially designed cells. Even during the one hour of allotted exercise time per day, inmates remain isolated and shackled.
  • Limited human contact – Inmates have no physical contact with other prisoners, further reducing opportunities for organizing escape attempts.
  • Highly trained corrections officers – ADX staff are experts in managing high-risk inmates in a maximum security environment.
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As one of the highest profile criminals in the world, the extreme isolation and security measures used at ADX Florence were deemed necessary to prevent any chance of El Chapo escaping again.

El Chapo’s Life at ADX Florence

El Chapo’s new life at ADX Florence is a far cry from his former lavish lifestyle as head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel. Here’s an overview of his current conditions behind bars:

  • Solitary confinement – El Chapo spends over 22 hours per day alone locked in his 7×12 foot reinforced concrete cell.
  • Limited furnishings – His cell contains only basic necessities such as a fixed concrete bed, small desk and stool, combination toilet/sink fixture, and shower. Personal possessions are strictly limited for security reasons.
  • Restricted communication – He can write letters but cannot make phone calls. All mail is inspected and monitored by prison staff.
  • Limited visitors – El Chapo is only permitted occasional visits from his lawyers as well as periodic visits through glass partitions from his wife Emma Coronel and their twin daughters.
  • Strict regiment – His daily schedule includes meals, exercise, showering, and structured times for personal hygiene, reading, and correspondence. All activities are meticulously monitored by security cameras and guards.
  • Limited recreation – He gets one hour of solo recreation per day in an enclosed, windowless concrete cell with a pull-up bar. He is not permitted to interact with other inmates during this time.
  • Constant lighting – His cell is illuminated by artificial lights that remain on 24 hours a day, disrupting the day-night cycle. This can take a psychological toll over time.

While certainly not subjected to inhumane conditions, the extreme isolation and security precautions at ADX are designed to prevent El Chapo from threatening public safety ever again. Given his power and reach as the former head of a global drug trafficking empire, authorities spare no expense to ensure he has no further chance of escape.

History of El Chapo Prison Escapes

El Chapo has proven to be a master escape artist, slipping away from Mexican prisons on two occasions previously. Here is a brief history of his prison escapes over the years:

DateEscape Details
January 19, 2001El Chapo escaped from the maximum security Puente Grande prison in Jalisco, Mexico by hiding in a laundry cart. Bribed guards helped facilitate his getaway. He remained on the run for 13 years.
February 23, 2014El Chapo escaped again from the Altiplano prison in Mexico through a sophisticated tunnel built under his cell shower to a nearby construction site. He used a motorcycle rigged on rails to travel through the tunnel and fled back into hiding.
January 8, 2016After six months on the run, El Chapo was recaptured following a shootout with Mexican marine forces in Los Mochis. He was then extradited to the US in January 2017 to face criminal charges.

El Chapo proved skilled at corrupting prison guards and exploiting weaknesses at even the most secure Mexican facilities. But US authorities remain confident that ADX Florence has no such vulnerabilities given its remote location, advanced security protocols, and state-of-the-art surveillance systems designed to prevent exactly those types of escape plots from succeeding again.

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Life Sentence and Tight Security Justified for Notorious Kingpin

Given his proven ability to escape and extensive criminal reach, sentencing El Chapo to a lifetime behind bars at America’s toughest prison is warranted. Prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and even El Chapo’s own defense attorneys agreed that a sentence of life plus 30 years was justified for the depth of his crimes.

The drug, weapons, and murder charges levied against the former Sinaloa kingpin were indisputable given the overwhelming evidence provided at his high-profile trial. El Chapo pled not guilty and his lawyers argued that cooperating witnesses were exaggerating their testimony to appease prosecutors. But ultimately the jury returned guilty verdicts on all 10 counts.

For decades, US authorities pursued El Chapo but he always managed to evade capture and imprisonment through corruption, intimidation, and outright escapes. But now at ADX Florence, the notorious kingpin has finally been neutralized for good. Given his lifelong dedication to illegal narcotics trafficking and the immense reach of his criminal empire, authorities agree his isolation from the outside world is necessary to prevent him from directing any further criminal activities.

While some human rights groups criticize the conditions at ADX Florence as inhumane, authorities insist the tight security protocols are warranted for the highest risk inmates like El Chapo. And by all accounts, El Chapo remains both cooperated and resigned to his fate considering the escape-proof nature of the facility. For the outside world, his permanent imprisonment brings some measure of justice and closure.

Where exactly is El Chapo being held?

El Chapo is being held at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado. The prison is nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” due to its remote location and stringent security measures.

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What type of cell and conditions is El Chapo confined to?

El Chapo spends over 23 hours a day alone in a 7×12 foot reinforced concrete cell with just a fixed concrete bed, desk, stool, toilet/sink, and shower. The cell is constantly lit and he has no view of the outside world. Human contact, possessions, and activity are extremely limited.

Can El Chapo communicate with anyone on the outside?

His communication is heavily restricted – no phone calls and limited, monitored correspondence. He can only see select visitors, like his wife and lawyers, through a glass partition. This prevents him from directing criminal activities.

Why is El Chapo not kept in the Mexican prison system?

El Chapo escaped from Mexican prisons twice before, in 2001 and 2014. To prevent a third escape, he was extradited to the US in 2017 to face criminal charges and imprisonment under ultra-secure conditions.

What sentence is El Chapo serving? How long will he be in prison?

He is serving a life sentence plus 30 years at ADX Florence. This ensures he will remain incarcerated for the rest of his natural life given his history of escaping Mexican prisons.

What happens if El Chapo tries to escape from ADX Florence?

The prison was built to be escape-proof. With no contact to other inmates, multiple security barriers, and advanced surveillance, there is no viable way for him to escape. Any escape attempt would end in immediate capture given the facility’s remote desert location.

Does El Chapo get any exercise or recreation time?

He is permitted one hour of solo recreation per day indoors in a windowless cell separate from other inmates. During this time, he is constantly shackled and under close surveillance. Outdoor exercise or group activities are prohibited.

Can El Chapo appeal his prison sentence or conditions of confinement?

It is highly unlikely any appeal would be successful given the clear evidence against him. Legal appeals of confinement conditions at ADX have also historically failed. As long as basic human rights are met, authorities have discretion on security policies.


In the end, El Chapo’s rise and fall is one of the most dramatic stories of power and greed in the criminal underworld. For over 25 years, his vast drug empire flooded the globe with narcotics and his drug cartel operated like an efficient and savvy Fortune 500 company. His multiple prison escapes only burnished his legend and enhanced his notoriety.

But his latest conviction in an American court has resulted in permanent incarceration at ADX Florence in Colorado – truly an escape-proof fortress. While his power and possessions are now gone, El Chapo’s larger-than-life persona and exploits will live on in infamy. And as he wiles away his final days in concrete isolation, authorities can rest assured that this criminal mastermind will never again threaten public safety or security. For El Chapo, the confines of ADX Florence represent the one cell he’ll likely never break out of again.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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