Florence, Co., population 3,795, is a virtual theme park of penal experiences, ranging from a minimum-security camp for inside-traders and small-time pot dealers to the concrete fortress that is the nation’s most secure prison: the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary, or ADX for short, says Time magazine. Until now, almost nothing has been written about the inner workings of the ADX. Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for the fatal bombings at the Atlanta Olympics and an abortion clinic in Alabama, has written letters to his mother and to the author of a book about his case that offer an account of life at the prison.
Inmates have almost no physical contact with other people. Food, mail, and laundry are delivered through a slot in the steel bars. Prisoners have a choice of two kinds of meals: typical American food or a diet conforming to almost all religious restrictions. Staff sit in control booths from which they operate the doors and surveil corridors using sound monitors and cameras. To keep the inmates occupied, they offer crossword puzzles, bingo, and Jeopardy competitions through flyers or a closed-circuit TV channel. Rudolph’s letters reflect increasing frustration with conditions caused by staff shortages. He complained about cold food, delayed mail, and calls missed because there was no one to bring a phone to his cell. About once a week, inmates can exercise in chain-link enclosures called “dog runs,” one per cage.