The Army has awarded Medals of Heroism, the service’s highest medal for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets, to the three JROTC students killed defending their classmates from a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018.
The Medal of Heroism, awarded to students Peter Wang, Alaina Petty and Martin Duque, recognizes JROTC cadets whose achievements “involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy courage and fortitude.”
All three students were among the 17 people killed by former Stoneman Douglas High School JROTC cadet, Nikolas Cruz. According to eyewitness accounts, Wang was last seen holding a door open to allow his fellow students to escape. The Army confirmed the news, first reported by The Daily Beast to Task Purpose on Feb. 20, 2018.
The Army presented Petty’s family with her Medal of Heroism at a Feb. 19, 2018, memorial service, according to The Daily Beast, while Duque’s family will receive his medal on Feb. 24, 2018. Wang’s family received his medal during his Feb. 20, 2018, memorial service.
“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told Task Purpose. “The JROTC Heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the U.S. Military Academy planned on providing the Wang family with a letter posthumously accepting Peter to West Point Class of 2025:
Broward County Public High School system’s JROTC program claims an average enrollment of 7,650 students in 28 of its 34 schools annually. According to the Wang family, proceeds from a Peter Wang Memorial Fund GoFundMe campaign will support the JROTC program at Stoneman Douglas, whose members exhibited exemplary acts of heroism during the shooting.
“Awards for other possible Cadets are going through a review process, to include the two Cadets who were on the news,” Maddox told Task Purpose. “However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families.”
All too often the Arctic region is portrayed as an area on the cusp of military crisis. This is an easy narrative to sell; it harks back to the Cold War. Potent imagery persists of submarines trolling silently beneath the Arctic ice and nuclear ballistic missiles pointed across the North Pole.
During the height of the standoff between NATO and the USSR, the world feared a barrage of nuclear warheads streaming in from the frozen north – and this experience has imprinted on the collective imagination and created distinct ideas about the region. This fear, for example, motivated from the 1950s the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Lines, a system of radar stations across the northern US (Alaska), Canada, and Greenland. The DEW Lines were meant to give the US and its NATO allies an early warning of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike.
The Cold War was a significant period in history. But catchy headlines playing off the parallels between the region and a new “cold” war are misleading. There have, of course, been increased tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 due to the conflict over Ukraine and Crimea. The 2018 Trident Juncture exercises in the Arctic, featuring “50,000 personnel from NATO Allies and partner countries”, are evidence of this. But the tension is not Arctic-specific and militaries are diverse actors in the region. This nuance, however, is often overlooked.
Belgian and German soldiers of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train their weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.
Current military exercises and equipment acquisitions fuel old Cold War perceptions. And a certain militarization is indeed occurring in the Arctic. Russia, for example, has recently invested heavily in updating its northern military infrastructure. So too have other Arctic states, such as Canada and Denmark. But military activity has, to varying degrees, occurred for decades in the north – it was just largely ignored by those not living there until recently.
The Arctic states guard their land and waterways through aerial, submarine and surface ship patrols, much as they have done for years. This hardly constitutes an escalation of military tensions, even if the infrastructure is being updated and, in some cases, increased. Despite this, talk of a new Cold War is heating up.
A nation’s armed forces often play a range of roles – beyond their traditional responsibilities in armed conflict. They are useful for rapid response during disasters, for example, and provide a range of security roles that don’t necessarily mean an escalation to war. They offer search and rescue (SAR) services and policing support.
In Norway, for example, the coast guard is one of the branches of the navy, along with the armed fleet, the naval schools and the naval bases. In Denmark, meanwhile, the coast guard’s Arctic activities are managed by the Royal Danish Navy.
The US Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which “secures the nation’s air, land, and sea borders to prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade“. By law, however, the US Coast Guard is outside the Department of Defense “in peacetime and is poised for transfer to the Department of the Navy during war“.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420 ft. icebreaker.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Prentice Danner)
Because of affiliations such as these, the line between military and civilian activity can become blurred. But that doesn’t mean all military activity is hostile or equates to an escalation towards war.
Climate change and technological advances have begun to open up the Arctic. And this means that more policing is required in a region that is remote and often out of reach for traditional police forces.
Other issues are also arising from climate change, such as increased forest fires. In July 2018, Sweden suffered major forest fires. As part of its effort to combat the fires it deployed “laser-guided bombs to douse forest fires”. This initiative was led by the Swedish air force. By using laser bombs, the “shockwaves simply blew out the flames in the same way our breath does to candles”.
As the region’s economic activity expands, armed forces are also being asked to assist more with civilian issues. In 2017, for example, the Norwegian Coast Guard was called in by local police in Tromsø to help police Greenpeace protesters who had entered a 500-metre safety zone around the Songa Enabler rig in an effort to stop drilling in the Korpfjell field of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, KV Nordkapp, responded, resulting in the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and the arrest of all 35 people on board.
Given the Arctic’s growing economic potential, military infrastructure is getting more attention. Russia, in particular, has made it clear that with economic potential on the line in the Arctic, a military build up is essential. For Russia, Arctic resources are central to the country’s economic security so the government line is: “National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence.” But issues of national security are wide ranging and are not solely a matter of building capacity to defend oneself from or in war.
Overall, it is vital to remember that while militaries are tools of war, they are not just tools of war. They also contribute to and provide a wide range of security services. This does not mean that increased military spending and activities should not be viewed with a critical eye. Indeed, they should. But discussing “a new Cold War” is sensationalist. It detracts from the broader roles that militaries play throughout the Arctic and stokes the very tensions it warns of.
US military leaders who attended a classified exercise in Hawaii learned that a war with North Korea could result in around 10,000 American combat-related casualties in the opening days, according to a New York Times report published on Feb.28, 2018.
The tabletop exercise (TTX), which tests hypothetical scenarios, lasted several days and included Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley and Special Operations Command commander Gen. Raymond Thomas.
While the number of troops who could potentially be wounded in such combat may be startling, civilian casualties were predicted to range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, according to The Times. The US stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, while the capital of Seoul — which is in range of North Korea’s crude, yet devastating artillery fire — has a population of about 24 million.
Given the scope of a war, Milley said that “the brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” officials familiar with the TTX said in the report.
According to The Times, military leaders looked at various factors, including how many Special Operations forces could deploy to target nuclear sites in North Korea; whether the US Army’s conventional units could end up fighting in tunnels; and methods to destroy the country’s air defenses to pave the way for US aircraft.
Immediate tensions between North Korean and US-South Korean leaders appear to have subsided in recent weeks after the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But US officials remain skeptical of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures.
Though various Trump administration officials have given conflicting statements on US policy, Trump said on Feb. 26, 2018 that he would be open to talks with North Korea “only under the right conditions.”
The US State Department also echoed Trump’s assertions: “Our condition is denuclearization,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
“Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Reporting from CNN and The Wall Street Journal indicates that President Donald J. Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, and U.S. officials are already giving notice to international partners while preparing the logistics of the move.
“Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”
U.S. troops have been in Syria for years, mostly operating next to rebel forces and Kurdish units working to tear apart ISIS’s claimed caliphate and then kill what fighters they could find. At the same time, U.S-backed fighters still frequently clashed with pro-government forces.
To a certain degree, this had created a proxy conflict as the U.S. backed rebel units and the conflict and Russia and Iran backed government forces. All sides could agree that ISIS had to be destroyed, but the U.S. had a very different idea from Iran and Russia of what the post-ISIS region should look like.
Under President Barack Obama, there were indicators that the U.S. would help shape the peace, ensuring that Iran didn’t gain a strong foothold in the country and potentially limiting Russia’s control after the war. Syria is very important to Russia as it has historically provided one of the only politically secure allies that Russia has had in the region.
Russia’s largest air base and naval base in the Middle East were in Syria even before the conflict in that country broke out, and Russia sent additional forces there as it attempted to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power despite accusations of human rights abuses and clear evidence that the regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
The U.S. withdrawal will allow Iran, Russia, and Turkey to more heavily influence the peace process, possibly to the detriment of Kurdish forces who had hoped to secure a permanent country in lands they helped protect and liberate from ISIS-control. Kurdish forces have a long history of allying with the U.S., taking part in operations in Iraq and Syria that were closely coordinated with U.S. leaders.
The withdrawal announcement seems to have come as a surprise, even to senior leaders in the U.S. and partnered nations. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed back, saying that ISIS is not defeated and that a withdrawal would be a “huge, Obama-like mistake.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, a senior congressional correspondent, has been making the rounds at the Capitol while tweeting quotes from different leaders. Marco Rubio gave sentiments similar to Graham’s, reportedly calling the decision a great disservice to the country, making the U.S. a less reliable partner.
“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”
The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.
Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.
The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.
The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.
The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.
Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.
Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
Russia says its planning to design its own tilt-rotor aircraft like the US’ V-22 Osprey, according to The National Interest, citing Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“A tilt-rotor aircraft, or convertiplane, is planned to be created for Russian Airborne Forces,” Sputnik reported, citing a Russian defense industry source.
“Before the end of September 2018, it is planned to get the customer specification and start the experimental design work for this aircraft,” the source told Sputnik.
Russian defense contractor Rostec also said in 2017 that it was building an electric tilt-rotor aircraft, which it said would be completed in 2019.
Tilt-rotor aircraft are basically a hybrid of a helicopter and fixed-wing plane that has the speed and range of an airplane, but can also take off and land like a helicopter. The V-22 has a max cruising speed of 310 miles per hour.
The elite Russian Airborne Forces, or VDV, are often Moscow’s first troops on the ground, like in Afghanistan and more recently in Syria.
A V-22 Osprey with rotors tilted, condensation trailing from propeller tips.
Numbering about 35,000 troops in 2010, VDV paratroopers were also deployed to South Ossetia during the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, and they blocked NATO troops from seizing the Pristina International Airport during the Kosovo War.
The VDV are also different than US paratroopers in that they’re known to drop in with armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.
If Russia actually builds this tilt-rotor aircraft — a big if given Moscow’s budgetary problems and inability to mass produce other new platforms like the Su-57 stealth jet and the T-14 main battle tank — it could be a deadly addition to the VDV.
A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.
Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.
FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.
The Air Force recently released a bunch of crazy pictures of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs getting refueled over Afghanistan, where the US recently redeployed a squadron of 12 Warthogs.
The A-10s were deployed in late January 2018 to Kandahar Air Base as part of a new campaign announced in November 2017. The US is increasing airstrikes on Taliban revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin drug-producing facilities.
Since then, the US has released several videos of A-10s striking Taliban vehicles, as well as training and drug-producing facilities.
The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.
Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.
So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.
I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.
(Photo by David Valdez)
To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.
American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.
You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.
(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.
Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.
Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.
That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?
That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.
The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.
Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!
A sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces may be a reality soon. But it will likely still be decades before “Star Trek’s” Starfleet becomes a thing.
On June 21, The House Armed Services Committeeproposed forming the U.S. Space Corps. Both Republican and Democrat representatives suggested cleaving the current Air Force Space Command away from Big Blue and forming its own branch of service.
Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers is spearheading the Space Corps into the 2018 Defense Authorization Bill. Rogers spoke with NPR and said “Russia and China have become near peers. They’re close to surpassing us. What we’re proposing would change that.”
Opposition to the Space Corps comes from the confusion that it would create at the Pentagon. Both Air Force Sec. Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein argued against the proposal. Gen. Goldfein said in May “I would say that we keep that dialog open, but right now I think it would actually move us backwards.”
The formation of new branches of the military isn’t new. The Air Force was of course part of the Army when it was the U.S. Army Air Corps. Even still, the Marine Corps is still a subdivision of the Navy.
Funding for the Space Corps would be coming from the Air Force. The budget for the existing Air Force Space Command would increase before it would become its own branch.
With the ever growing sophistication of war, the “red-headed step children” of the Air Force would be in the spotlight. The Space Corps would most likely be absorb The Navy’s space arm of the Naval Network Warfare Command into its broader mission.
There has not been a proposed official designation for Space Corps personnel yet. Air Force personnel are Airmen so it would be logical for Space Corps troops to be called spacemen.
To crush the dreams of every child, the fighting would mostly be take place at a desk instead of space. It costs way too much to send things and people into space. Until there’s a great need to send troops into space, Spacemen won’t be living out any “Halo,”“Starship Troopers,” or “Star Wars” fantasies.
In all likelihood, spacemen would focus their efforts on the threats against cyber-security, detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and maintenance of satellites in the early days. No major changes from what currently exists today, but the Space Corps would have more prestige and precedent in future conflicts.
The Senate voted Jan. 18 to extend a controversial surveillance program for six years, ending months of debate over a law that has been the linchpin of post-9/11 U.S. national security.
The bill essentially reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the U.S. government to collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, even if Americans’ communications are picked up and searched by officials along the way.
The measure passed 65-34, with support from Republicans and Democrats.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the extension into law by Jan. 19, despite reservations he expressed in a tweet last week.
Before the vote Jan. 18, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called the 702 provision “the single most important intelligence tool that exists for us to keep Americans safe.”
Opponents say the program allows the government to sweep up Americans’ communications under the guise of targeting foreigners abroad. Privacy rights advocates argue that this so-called “incidental” collection doesn’t happen by chance.
“Individual decision making about whom to target is warrantless,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider. “There’s no oversight on a case-by-case basis. The FBI can warrantless search data, and they can do that at any stage, even if a formal investigation is not open.”
On Jan. 16, the Senate voted 60-38 to invoke cloture on the bill, effectively ending debate and moving forward with a vote. A bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Steve Daines, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren, held a press conference shortly after the decision to urge their colleagues to support a warrant requirement to search Americans’ data.
“Most of us agree the program has value and is useful, but we should not use information that is collected on Americans,” Paul said. “The database is enormous. Maybe millions of Americans are caught up in this database.”
Paul has consistently railed against the law arguing that it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Trump tweets, confusion ensues
Just hours before the House was set to vote on the bill last week, Trump interjected in the debate with a tweet that appeared to contradict the official White House position, setting off confusion on Capitol Hill as to where the president stands on the issue.
“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,'” Trump tweeted. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
An hour later, after House Speaker Paul Ryan privately explained the importance of the bill to Trump, the president attempted to clarify his position.
“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he tweeted. “We need it! Get smart!”
Section 702 became law in 2008 when Congress amended FISA rules. The public was left mostly in the dark about warrantless surveillance until 2013, when former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden leaked an estimated 1.7 million classified intelligence files, covering a wide range of secret government surveillance tactics and programs.
The files revealed that Section 702 was being used to justify the PRISM program, which allowed the government to collect communications from tech companies.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious drug kingpin of Mexico, has finally arrived in Florence, Colorado. It’s here, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary where he will spend his life sentence (+30 years, according to a judge).
El Chapo escaped Mexican prisons twice, in 2001 and 2014. However, his stay this time around seems to be much more permanent— this supermax prison is nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” and has never had a prisoner escape since its founding in 1994.
The layout of a traditional supermax cell.
El Chapo, 62, arrived at the facility on July 19, two days after his life sentence. He joined other high profile offenders like the “Unabomber,” an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber.
All 400 inmates at the ADX spend 23 hours a day in a soundproofed cell, and then have one heavily supervised hour of “rec” time. Their supervised hour of rec time is observed while both handcuffed and shackled. Phones are banned, and there is an extremely “limited” version of television available (meaning: black and white recreational, religious, and educational programming).
Everything in the cell is made of stone, and is structurally attached to the wall or floor. The bed is made of concrete with a small pad as a mattress, a small concrete stool is molded to the ground, and a couple of small shelves jut out from the wall near their in-cell sink.
The design of every cell is centered around eliminating threats. Some cells have a shower, to further limit contact with guards, but they have a timer to eliminate the threat of flooding. The toilet shuts off if blocked. The sink has no tap.
Inside the Supermax Prison Where El Chapo Will Be Housed
Inmates can earn more daily rec time after a year, depending on their behavior. They don’t remain there forever, the long-term “goal” is a three-year stay, and then a transfer to a less restrictive prison.
However, there is considerable controversy surrounding the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health. In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the prison, citing alleged chronic abuse and a failure to diagnose mental health properly.
The maximum security doors where inmates are confined 23 hours a day.
I spoke with an unnamed corrections officer— to have her speak on the would-be escape attempt that she thwarted in her prison. Her prison is a level 4 (out of 5) and is home to violent prisoners, but none as high profile or as repeatedly violent as the offenders at ADX supermax. This helps give a sense at the futility of an escape plan in a prison that isn’t even as comprehensive as the ADX supermax.
“While walking up to post with no radio, I [saw] an inmate standing in the doorway.” she said, “I observed what appeared to be a water bottle hanging from the roof and when he noticed the look on my face, he took off quickly. I rounded the side of the house (a common term for each individual living complex in a prison) to get a better look, I realized it was a huge braided rope made of sheets, with a weighted water bottle anchored to the end of it. But, it had been caught on razor wire and was dangling.”
“It turned out to be an attempted escape that had gone wrong.” She continued, “There were bags of food and black clothes on top of the house, and a huge foot-long metal rod sharpened to a point hidden underneath the rope.” And that was a level 4.