Unabomber begins life sentence in "the Big One"

FLORENCE, Colo., May 5 (Reuters) - Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski began serving his life sentence Tuesday, jailed in a high-tech Colorado prison known as the toughest on earth and housing some of America's most notorious villains.

One day after he was officially sentenced Monday for a 17-year string of package and letter bomb attacks which killed three people and injured more than two dozen others, Kaczynski was taken from his Sacramento jail cell, flown to Pueblo, Colorado, and transferred some 30 miles (48 kms) to the federal penitentiary in Florence, officials said. At Florence, a sleepy town in the foothills of the Rockies, he passed through steel doors and was officially entered as an inmate at America's new Alcatraz, the "Administrative Maximum Facility" nicknamed "the Big One."

"The Administrative Maximum Facility was designed to house offenders who require the highest level of security," prison spokesman Louis Winn said.

At Florence, Kaczynski, a 55-year-old former math professor who became one of the most notorious serial killers in U.S. history, will enter a grim world populated by the most violent and unrepentant criminals in the country. Among his fellow inmates are Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Charles Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, who is serving a life term for murdering a judge.

Opened in 1994, Florence has been hailed as being almost escape-proof, a high-tech stronghold that embodies the darkest nightmares of a technophobe like Kaczynski.

While the nation has other "supermax" jails designed for dangerous inmates, Florence goes further. "It will take Einstein's genius and more than a little luck to get out of this baby," architect John Quest told one reporter earlier this year. Designed with the help of computers which were fed various escape scenarios, the Florence facility combines the tightest external security with strict prisoner management - a combination that has led some civil rights groups to protest that it is inhumane.

Situated on 37 acres, the jail is ringed by watchtowers and can hold 490 inmates. Silent pressure pads, laser beams and dogs that attack without barking are all located in the no-man's land between razor-wire fencing and the prison walls.

Convicts at Florence spend 23 hours a day lock-up, and are only allowed outside of cells with leg irons and handcuffs. Exercise time is extremely curtailed, and contacts with the outside world are kept to an absolute minimum.

More than 10,000 computer-controlled electronic prison gates all close automatically if any escape attempt is detected. The cells are sound-proofed to prevent prisoners communicating with each other by Morse code, and prison librarians examine every page of every book touched by an inmate to make sure no messages are inserted. In their cells, prisoners face a bleak world. The cells have no movable furniture, nothing which could possibly be used to attack a guard. The windows are all angled so that there are no views of the world outside.

At the center of the prison is an area known as "the Black Hole", where the toughest convicts are kept in 148 punishment cells that are kept darkened and completely soundproofed.

Prison officials do not comment on the conditions for individual inmates, so there was no immediate way to know where Kaczynski will be housed. It is known, however, that his four consecutive life terms mean Kaczynski will never see the light of day as a free man again, and that his first day in "the Big One" marks the start of an incarceration that will end only with his death.

(C) Reuters Limited 1998.


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