Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center or MCC where notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is currently being housed, was once described by a prisoner as having worse conditions than Guantanamo Bay, a declassified report revealed.
‘El Chapo’ was brought to the Metropolitan Correctional Center after he was arraigned on a laundry list of drug trafficking and murder charges in Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday.
The powerful Sinaloa cartel boss landed in the U.S. after he was extradited from Mexico, where he had successfully managed to escape from two maximum security prisons.
Escaping the rust-colored Metropolitan Correctional Center, however, will prove difficult for Guzman, who is most likely in the jail’s notorious 10 South wing — a maximum-security area holding the most dangerous prisoners in solitary confinement.
Ahmed Ghailani, a Tanzanian serving life for his role in bombing two American embassies in Africa back in 1998, told a psychiatrist that he thought Guantanamo Bay was “more pleasant” and “more relaxed” than the MCC, a forensic evaluation report obtained by the New York Daily News revealed.
“(At Guantanamo), he was able to recreate with others, access DVDs and felt that the atmosphere provided more freedom,” Virginia University psychiatry professor Gregory Saathoff revealed in the report, which was based on several lengthy discussions with Ghailani in 2010.
While at the MCC, however, Ghailani protested that he was never allowed to interact with other inmates and that the only human interaction was the frequent strip searches by guards.
However, Ghailani, who spent over two years at the facility, said that he found the legal process in the U.S. to be fairer than the military justice system he faced to at the prison in Cuba.
“When I was at Gitmo, they were able to use hearsay evidence,” he told the psychiatrist. “Here, they have constitutional rights…The rules at Gitmo favor the government. They are more fair.”
After he had been sentenced, Ghailani was transported to a maximum security prison in Colorado, where he remains in custody.
The MCC opened its doors in 1975 and is situated between the Church of St. Andrew and the Manhattan Federal Courthouse. It has held criminals such as Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who plotted the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and Bernard Madoff, who was responsible for the largest financial fraud in the history of the U.S.
The jail houses approximately 800 inmates and is notorious for its rigorous security standards.
Uzair Paracha, a Pakistani-American who was held at the MCC for two years after giving material support to Al Qaeda, said that it was common for prisoners to partially lose their eyesight because the jail’s lights remained on for 23 or 24 hours a day.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center’s frosted glass windows closed out all view of the outside world, and the slot on each cell door was kept shut at all times, Paracha indicated, who was interviewed for the book “Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement.”
It remains unclear whether Guzman will remain at the MCC while he awaits trial in Brooklyn. Many prisoners facing federal charges in the city are kept at a larger jail in Sunset Park, but some are housed at the MCC, which is where Guzman was brought after his arraignment.
David Patton, one of Chapo’s legal reps, told the New York Times on Monday that the MCC’s solitary confinement areas are “horrifying and inhumane.”
“If you wanted to design a place to drive people mad, you would be hard pressed to do better,” Patton, who is the executive director of Federal Defenders of New York, said to the New York Times. “The fluorescent lights are always on…The only sound is the clanking of metal when doors are opened and closed.”
On any given day, over 80,000 U.S. inmates are retained in solitary confinement, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.
Last January, former President Barack Obama criticized the practice as counterproductive after declaring an executive order to diminish its use.
“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to communities as whole people?” Obama stated in an editorial published in the Washington Post. “It doesn’t make us safer. It’s an affront to our humanity.”
President Trump, alternatively, has indicated that he might reverse Obama’s order, frequently speaking in favor of the death penalty and labeling himself as the “law and order candidate.”