An attorney for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman asked a federal judge to intervene over what she described as “cruel and unusual” prison conditions for the drug kingpin who is in custody in a federal prison in New York.
An attorney for Guzman this month asked a federal judge to intervene over “cruel and unusual” prison conditions for the drug kingpin detained in a federal prison in New York.
In the more than two years he’s been detained, he’s not had access to fresh air or natural sunlight, and is forced to put toilet paper in his ears to mask loud prison noise, his attorney wrote in a letter to the judge.
The United States issued a response to the allegations Thursday, saying the only outdoor exercise space at the facility is a rooftop with a wire mesh covering.
That facility was the site of a 1981 attempted jail break – where an inmate’s cohorts hijacked a sightseeing helicopter and attempted to cut open the wire mesh covering, the US said.
“In this case, any outdoor exercise time would be particularly problematic for this defendant,” the US said.
” The defendant has successfully planned and executed elaborate escapes from two high-security penal institutions. As detailed at trial, one of the defendant’s escapes involved the construction of a sophisticated, ventilated tunnel that stretched for over a mile. Certainly, an escape via rooftop, using a helicopter, or any related means would be elementary by comparison.”
He will be sentenced next month
Guzman, once the leader of a murderous drug cartel in Mexico, was convicted in February of running a criminal enterprise and other drug-related charges. He will be sentenced on June 25.
He’s been in US detention for 27 months, and is in solitary confinement in a 10-by-8-foot windowless cell in Manhattan, according to his defense attorney, Mariel Colon.
In the letter to the judge, the attorney described what she called a series of punishments against the drug lord. The light is always on in his cell, leading to a “serious issue of sleep deprivation,” she wrote.
In addition to the lack of light, the air conditioning in his cell is so loud, he is unable to sleep through the noise, his attorney said. As a result, Guzman has been using toilet paper as earplugs, and he complains of daily headaches and ear pain that makes it impossible for him to use earphones.
“The reason for the restriction is simple: If there were an emergency, an inmate would not be able to hear the guards alerting the inmates to the problem. Inmates could also use the earplugs as a ruse to ignore, or pretend not to hear, the guards’ orders,” the government said.
The defendant has a week to respond
The attorney called the conditions a violation of her client’s Eighth Amendment rights and fundamental norms of human decency.
But the government said he has access to “several different types of exercise equipment, including an exercise bike and elliptical, and a vented window that provides the defendant with access to fresh, outdoor air and sunlight.”
The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment when reached by CNN. Shortly after the letter was filed, the judge ordered the government to respond by May 23 and the defendant a week later.
A federal judge denied Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s request for better prison conditions Monday after federal officials claimed some of the drug lord’s demands might be part of a ruse aimed at helping him escape.
Prosecutors have said they don’t think he should get a new trial, or that jurors should be brought back to court for an evidentiary hearing.