A harsh Brooklyn lockup awaits ‘El Chapo’
BROOKLYN, NY — The incessant shouts carry through air vents and heavy metal doors. It’s how the segregated prisoners commiserate about life behind bars. They pound the walls until their fists are bloody. They clog toilets and flood their cells, urine and feces pouring into the corridors.
Such is life in the most restricted units of the nine-story Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn.
It’s also the largest federal detention center, with inmates deemed “extremely dangerous, violent, or escape-prone,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.
So observers were understandably surprised when, through his attorney, reputed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman recently expressed a desire to be extradited to the United States. The lawyer has since changed his tone.
A Houdini-like master of escape in his native Mexico, Guzman could be sent to the Brooklyn lockup, where he will stay while he stands trial on federal charges, according to American officials. They have been preparing his transfer for months.
Court documents as well as interviews with former federal prison officials, penal experts and others shed light on the conditions he could expect across the shallow waters of the Rio Grande.
Life in America will be starkly different from Guzman’s time at the maximum security Puente Grande prison near Guadalajara, Mexico, where he lived in relative luxury until he decided to break out in 2001 — by some accounts, in a laundry cart.
Nor will it resemble his days at the Supermax-like Altiplano prison near Mexico City, where he slipped out through an elaborate underground tunnel and rode a motorcycle to freedom.
“He’s definitely not going to be digging any tunnels in Brooklyn,” former MDC prisoner Esteban Gonzalez said with a chuckle. “I can tell you that. Once those metal doors close behind him, it’s pretty much over.”
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