July 6, 2016 (CNN) –The incessant shouts carry through air vents and heavy metal doors. It’s how the segregated prisoners commiserate about life behind bars. They pound the walls until their fists are bloody. They clog toilets and flood their cells, urine and feces pouring into the corridors.
Such is life in the most restricted units of the nine-story Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn.
It’s also the largest federal detention center, with inmates deemed “extremely dangerous, violent, or escape-prone,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.
So observers were understandably surprised when, through his attorney, reputed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman recently expressed a desire to be extradited to the United States. The lawyer has since changed his tone.
A Houdini-like master of escape in his native Mexico, Guzman could be sent to the Brooklyn lockup, where he will stay while he stands trial on federal charges, according to American officials. They have been preparing his transfer for months.
Court documents as well as interviews with former federal prison officials, penal experts and others shed light on the conditions he could expect across the shallow waters of the Rio Grande.
Once those metal doors close, ‘it’s pretty much over’
Life in America will be starkly different from Guzman’s time at the maximum security Puente Grande prison near Guadalajara, Mexico, where he lived in relative luxury until he decided to break out in 2001 — by some accounts, in a laundry cart.
Nor will it resemble his days at the Supermax-like Altiplano prison near Mexico City, where he slipped out through an elaborate underground tunnel and rode a motorcycle to freedom.
“He’s definitely not going to be digging any tunnels in Brooklyn,” former MDC prisoner Esteban Gonzalez said with a chuckle. “I can tell you that. Once those metal doors close behind him, it’s pretty much over.”
Mexico has cleared the way for the extradition of a man whose alleged bribes once assured him country club-style confinement back home.
But Guzman’s legal team now promises a vigorous extradition fight. Appeals alone could delay the process by months or years.
“If it were a lost cause, I wouldn’t be defending him,” lead attorney José Refugio Rodríguez Nuñes told CNN
In Brooklyn, Guzman and other cartel leaders were indicted in 2009 on charges of conspiring to import more than 264,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States between 1990 and 2005, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The indictment also accuses the alleged traffickers of sharing transportation routes and obtaining drugs from various Colombian cartels.
In addition, Guzman faces charges in Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New Hampshire.
“El Chapo’s basically going to be locked down … in his cell 23 hours a day,” said Robert Hood, a former Federal Bureau of Prisons warden.
A criminal world who’s who
At MDC, the architect of the largest illegal narcotics operation in the world will be one of about 1,800 prisoners slogging through the federal court system.
Upon arrival, the diminutive crime boss — whose nickname is “Shorty” — will receive a number that will identify him during his time in U.S. government custody.
The lockup houses New York’s most violent federal prisoners, including mob bosses, drug traffickers and terrorists.
In fact, former prisoner Gonzalez name drops underworld figures like celebrity sightings.