‘El Chapo’ Guzman suffering effects of solitary confinement, his lawyers say
NEW YORK — Documents filed Monday by court-appointed defense attorneys representing drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman offered a glimpse into his isolated life behind bars.
No sunlight, no phone calls, no television, no communication with the outside world — this sums up Guzman’s existence inside Unit 10 South of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he has lived most of the time since his extradition from Mexico to New York on January 19 to face federal drug trafficking charges.
The notorious head of the Sinaloa Cartel has been confined to a solitary cell, removed from the general population in the facility that is part of the federal Bureau of Prisons. His only human contact has come from two visits with authorized religious people, his lawyers and the mostly English-speaking guards with whom he occasionally communicates using hand gestures because he doesn’t speak English, said court documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Defense lawyers filed the papers seeking to have Guzman transferred to the prison’s general population and be granted visiting privileges to speak with his wife “in person or by or telephone” to hire a private attorney.
Guzman is allowed no interaction with his wife, Emma Coronel, the two daughters they share or any other family member. Federal prosecutors believe communication with family could be used to pass messages to the Sinaloa Cartel, said court documents.
Calls to his federal defense attorneys have also been restricted. In the court documents, his attorneys were also critical of special measures censoring any messages Guzman wishes to pass on to his family.
“Can we convey what we otherwise would in the normal course, such as, that he is in poor health and low spirits? That he wants relatives to deposit money in his commissary account? Or that he sends his love and does not want them to worry?” the court documents said.
CNN’s calls to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Metropolitan Correctional Center seeking comment were not returned.
During the week, Guzman spends 23 hours a day in a small cell with no windows. He is allowed one hour of solitary exercise in a separate cell that holds one treadmill and one stationary bicycle. It is on the way to this exercise room, as he walks by a small window, that Guzman gets a fleeting view of the outside world. There is a television in the exercise room, but he has not been allowed to watch it, the documents said.
“On the weekends,” the documents read, “he is confined 24 hours a day and not permitted any exercise. His meals are passed through a slot in the door; he eats alone. The light is always on. With erratic air-conditioning, he has often lacked enough warm clothing to avoid shivering.”
Guzman bought a small clock from the commissary, but it was taken away with no explanation, said court documents. “Without a window or access to natural light, the clock was the only way for Mr. Guzman to distinguish day from night.”
The isolation seems to be taking a toll on Guzman, whose physical and mental health appear to be deteriorating, according to the defense documents.
“He has difficulty breathing and suffers from a sore throat and headaches. He has recently been experiencing auditory hallucinations, complaining of hearing music in his cell even when his radio is turned off,” said court documents.
Guzman, 59, faces six separate indictments across the United States, alleging he brought in billions in drugs to the country and laundered profits back to Mexico. No trial date has been set.
The charges carry a minimum sentence of life in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors. Federal prosecutors also intend to seek a $14 billion criminal forfeiture order against Guzman.