This article was published in collaboration with Vice.
The first thing I noticed was the silence.
I had spent the previous 12 months incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp at Florence, CO. Living with 400 other minimum-security inmates, I’d grown acclimated to a certain level of background noise: radios playing, loud conversations, card games. The place buzzed with the sound of life — not much of a life, but life nonetheless.
Now I was walking into our neighboring facility, the infamous “supermax,” and it was as silent as a tomb.
I’d recently had my prison job transferred from the recreation department at the camp to the same department at the supermax. Three days a week, I would be an inmate worker inside the most imposing building I had ever seen.
If someone asked me to describe the word “doom” using just a picture, I would hand them a photo of that maximum security prison.
On my first day, we boarded a bus and drove the two miles over. As we got off, I realized the place had two levels: the upper levels held administrative offices, medical stations, and guard rooms, and the lower levels housed the prisoners in a maze of electronically locking doors and steep ramps.
We went through an ID check, two pat-downs (one on each side of a razor wire-topped fence), and a metal detector.
“I have six campers…