El Chapo May Be Planning Another Prison Break, Feds Say, After He Requests Outdoor Recreation Time

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Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is currently behind bars in a New York prison, may be planning another prison break, Los Angeles’ KABC-TV reports. The notorious criminal has already made two high-profile escapes from prison.

Guzman has been held in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Manhattan, awaiting sentencing. He’s being held in solitary confinement because, as Newsweek reported in February, officials were concerned that he may have been plotting his escape even as his trial was ongoing. It bears noting, however, that there may be other reasons for keeping Guzman in solitary confinement besides his alleged escape plans, such as his “celebrity” inmate status, as well as the fact that there may be other inmates in the prison who might be interested in harming Guzman, perhaps because they or their family members or associates were victimized by Guzman’s cartel.

Regardless of the reasons for his solitary confinement, his lawyer says that keeping him there violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. Further, his attorney sent his jailers a list of requests. Those requests — which include two hours of outdoor recreation per week, access to the commissary, earplugs, and water bottles — would be entirely mundane and not out of the ordinary for any other prisoner.

Federal officials, however, are having none of that. They say that those requests — the outdoor recreation time, in particular — could possibly be a part of an elaborate plan to escape. This was exactly what Brooklyn federal judge Brian Cogan suggested, via the New York Post.

“In this case, any outdoor exercise time would be particularly problematic for this defendant,” he wrote.

Guzman is notoriously difficult to keep in prison. Twice, he’s broken out of high-security Mexican prisons, including a 2001 escape after which he was on the lam for over a decade. In a second escape attempt in 2015, Guzman reportedly dug a hole through the floor of his cell and then escaped through a mile-long tunnel. This time, he only remained on the lam for a few months before getting captured again.

In addition to Guzman’s repeated, successful prison breaks, federal officials also noted a high-profile attempted prison break at the detention facility where he’s being held. In 1981, a man landed a helicopter on the roof of the facility and dropped weapons to prisoners in the yard. The pilot and an accomplice also attempted to cut through the roof to break out a prisoner inside, but they were unable to cut through.