Notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s tunneling days are over, for there’s virtually no hope for escape from his latest digs. El Chapo was finally extradited to the U.S. last week at about the same time Donald Trump took office. Some may see this as a signal from Mexico, but El Chapo himself must see Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center as hell.
The Daily Star has video footage of Guzman’s last moments in his Mexico prison cell (including the moment when he hears of his travel plans), and those conditions look pretty cushy compared to his new facility, which is located on the island’s lower end. The New York Times spoke to an inmate who has spent time at both this jail and Guantanamo Bay, and he says El Chapo’s new accommodations are definitely worse. The jail’s residents have ranged far and wide — from Ponzi schemer Bernie L. Madoff to 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Ahmed Yousef — and very few have escaped, although many have tried. The wing where El Chapo is staying sounds positively abhorrent:
The inmates deemed most dangerous are housed in a half-dozen cells in a small wing known as 10 South, where they are held in solitary confinement and prohibited from calling out to one another. The lights are on 23 or 24 hours a day, according to court records, interviews with lawyers and written accounts. The frosted glass windows offer no view of the outside world. Even the slot on each cell door is kept shut, meaning that inmates see little beyond their solitary cell.
But guards can see inside, by way of a camera directed at the shower stall and another above the toilet or bed, according to a published account by Uzair Paracha, who was held there for two years until 2005, when he was convicted of providing support to Al Qaeda. Mr. Paracha said it was not unusual for inmates to notice their eyesight deteriorating while in 10 South, and to request eyeglasses for an onset of nearsightedness.
To add to the atmosphere, the isolation of El Chapo shall only be mitigated by the sounds of fellow inmates praying, metal doors clanging shut, and guards laughing. Conditions are reportedly so horrifying that Federal Defenders of New York Executive Director David E. Patton stated, “If you wanted to intentionally design a place to drive people mad, you’d be hard pressed to do better.”
The Sinaloa cartel leader faces a life sentence in the U.S. if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to his charges, but prosecutors have amassed a staggering amount of evidence on the vast network through which the cartel disseminated his drug supply for decades. In addition, prosecutors built their case upon “thousands of acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings, torture and assassination at his direction,” all through which El Chapo allegedly maintained power.
There’s a damn good chance El Chapo may never see the light of day again. He’s probably wishing he was smelling Sean Penn’s farts right about now.