ADX Florence — the only "supermax" prison in the United States, and unquestionably one of the most inescapable facilities in the world — houses some of the most dangerous and frightening criminals.
Right now, they're so strapped for workers that the guys who normally mop the floors are having to double as prison guards:
Prison secretaries, case managers, maintenance workers and counselors are picking up shifts to guard terrorists, cartel bosses and spies at the nation's most secure prison because of short staffing, the leader of the local correctional officers' union said.
Just to emphasize: ADX Florence houses pretty much the worst of the worst. The Boston Marathon bomber. El Chapo. Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols. 9/11 planner Zacarias Moussaoui. Countless other grade-A psychopaths and killers.
If you're having "prison secretaries" and "case managers" watch these guys, you're in a bad spot.
"We're hemorrhaging staff. They're running out the back as fast as they're coming in the front," said correctional officer and union president John Butkovich.
He said the facility is safe and that the staffing levels have improved to only 125 vacancies in recent months, but that it still falls far short of an ideal situation if non-custody staff are having to routinely take shifts as correctional officers.
Butkovich said he and other guards are required to work mandatory double shifts of 16 hours about once a week. "It wears on you physically and mentally," he said.
"The facility is safe" is relative.
ADX Florence is pretty much escape-proof.
But a large part of that stems from the high guard-to-inmate ratio. When you have more guards than you do prisoners, you can carry out intensive, nonstop surveillance of them to ensure they're not planning any escapes or attacks.
If you're short 125 staffers, that's not good.
If you're pushing the guards you do have to work exhausting 16-hour double shifts, that's worse.
Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet said inmates have assaulted staff six times and killed other inmates twice in the past year.
"This understaffing has placed employees and the inmate population in an unsustainable environment and created a reliance on mandatory overtime and the reassignment of non-custody staff," the senators wrote in a letter to the head of BOP.
"Every one of our institutions has a very, very high potential of violence. You never know what you're walking into," [counselor John] Holbrooks said.