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Isolation of Solitary Confinement Has ‘El Chapo' Hearing Things: Lawyers

Guzman faces U.S. drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges

Notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who twice escaped from prison in his native Mexico, has lodged a complaint about his small, isolated, erratically heated jail cell in Manhattan.

Lawyers for the Sinaloa cartel boss filed a challenge Monday to the conditions under which he's being held. They say Guzman's isolation under solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center is far more extreme than what he experienced while in detention in Mexico, leaving him with auditory hallucinations and almost no one to interact with.

"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. ... He never goes outside," the complaint reads.

Guzman was extradited from Mexico on Jan. 19 and flown to New York to face drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges in United States federal court. He has pleaded not guilty. 

He had already been held under intense surveillance after his second escape from a Mexican prison, which involved a long tunnel and a motorcycle on tracks that whisked him to freedom. He was on the run for about a year before being recaptured.

Today, Guzman is left in his windowless cell at least 23 hours a day, with one hour of exercise in another cell on weekdays, according to the complaint. A small clock he purchased from the commissary was removed without explanation, his defense team said, seeking the lifting of what are called Special Administrative Measures, which restrict the communication inmates can have with the outside world.

Guzman is also unable to speak with his family, can't call his lawyers and, because he speaks no English, must communicate with most guards through gestures, according to the motion.

The complaint cited an Amnesty International report that called for a review of those mesaures, and the six-cell unit where he is being housed, over concerns about the effect of "extreme isolation and solitary confinement" on prisoners.

Last month, his attorneys said Guzman was denied water and that his conditions were too restrictive, NBC News reported. The federal judge deferred to security arrangements set by the Justice Department and jail.

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