Inside Florence Supermax: Riling Up Inmates

Executives at the federal United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado are creating a dangerous situation for correctional officers (COs), according to workers who say that managers will incite inmates and leave them to take their anger out on the employees who deal with them.

Allegations have even reached the highest ranking executive, Complex Warden Ron Wiley.Former ADX correctional worker Cory Hodge doesn’t hold back his opinions on Wiley, describing him as a “egomaniacal, arrogant, insensitive jerk.”

“He is the type of administrator who would walk down into a cell block and talk trash to convicts and get them wired up and pissed off and then leave them,” Hodge says. “Then the correctional officer has to go down there and try and calm the situation.”

Hodge worked at ADX from 2003 to 2006, before he quit the job and moved to Texas.

Another CO who has worked at ADX a number of years and wished to remain anonymous also echoed similar allegations regarding Wiley.

“He’ll talk to the inmates like they’re second or third-class citizens and then leave us to deal with them,” says the worker. “Wiley usually goes down on Thursdays unless he’s really in a perverse mood. ..that’s the only way I can call it…and then he goes down on Friday late in the afternoon so he can stir up the inmates so we have to deal with them all weekend long.”

Those in the upper echelons of management do not personally deal with inmates, unless it’s behind locked doors, and opening the doors is left to the COs.

“He does it all through closed and locked doors and then the correctional officer has to open the door,” says Hodge, who recollects a time when Wiley allegedly came down to mock the fact an inmate’s brother had recently been violently shot outside in another city. “Then a correctional officer comes down there and gets a face full of piss or speared though the bars or something.”

Union officials with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union which represents correctional workers at ADX, have also spoken of cases where mangers have told inmates that the reason they haven’t gotten their food on time or received recreation is because “the COs are lazy,” allegedly inciting violence. However, officials declined to mention who the managers were, and did not identify Wiley.

The Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the facility, did not return a request for comment regarding the allegations.

Also see:
Inside Florence Supermax: Locked Doors, Locked Mouths
Inside Florence Supermax: Priorities And Contaminated Air
Inside Florence Supermax: Losing More, Getting Less

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at