WikiLeaks found Julian Assange could end up in one of the most notorious prisons in the US if extradited and convicted for espionage charges, a court at London’s Old Bailey heard on Tuesday.
Maureen Baird, a former warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, testified during the extradition hearing. Baird said Assange would be held in isolation under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) in pre-trial detention, as well as later if convicted due to the national security aspect of the case.
Baird said that given the SAMs requirements, if Assange is convicted, the “only place” he could go is a federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, known as ADX. Baird said Assange would have to be “almost dying” to be sent to another facility.
“From my experience of close to three decades of working in federal prisons, I would agree that long-term isolation can have serious negative effects on an inmate’s mental health,” Baird said.
Last week, the court heard that Assange has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, severe depression, and other conditions that put him at risk of suicide. Medical experts said Assange would be at high risk of suicide if the court ordered his extradition to a US prison.
Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019. In May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer examined Assange at the prison with a team of medical experts. Melzer concluded that the WikiLeaks founder exhibited, “all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma.”
ADX prison is home to notorious criminals like Ted Kaczynski, also known as the “Unabomber,” Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
If Assange is extradited to the US, he could face up to 175 years in prison for exposing US war crimes.