Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago

Coordinates: 41°52′36″N 87°37′50″W / 41.87667°N 87.63056°W / 41.87667; -87.63056
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Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago
LocationChicago, Illinois
Coordinates41°52′36″N 87°37′50″W / 41.87667°N 87.63056°W / 41.87667; -87.63056
Security classMetropolitan Correctional Center
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago (MCC Chicago) is a United States federal prison in Chicago, Illinois, which holds male and female prisoners of all security levels prior to and during court proceedings in the Northern District of Illinois, as well as inmates serving brief sentences. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice.[2]

History and design[edit]

MCC Chicago was designed by architect Harry Weese. Construction began in 1971 and the facility opened in 1975. The building is a right triangle shape, is 28 stories high, and has a rooftop exercise yard.[3]

Several features make MCC Chicago's design unique from other federal prison facilities. Weese designed each cell with a floor-to-ceiling slit window, 7 feet (2.1 m) long by 5 inches (130 mm) wide, narrow enough not to require bars, and beveled out to allow natural light to pass inside.[4] The cells were originally designed to feel as comfortable as possible, based on sailboat cabins, with built-in hardwood beds and desks. Most of these features have since been removed.[4]

Prison life[edit]

An exercise yard is available for inmates, located on the roof of the building. This rooftop yard is enclosed by 30-foot (9.1 m) tall concrete walls with fenced openings.[5] A recreation center in the basement provides fitness equipment on a regular schedule, along with a selection of board games. The leisure and law libraries are housed on the ninth floor along with classrooms and offices.[6] There is a security housing unit (SHU) for male prisoners, while female prisoners needing to be isolated, as of 2005, have been taken to the Cook County Jail.[7]

As of 2005 women prisoners may visit the exercise room and law library once per week.[8] The prison only allows male inmates, not females, to have prison jobs such as working in the prison kitchen.[9] Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black, wrote that circa 2005 the institution was not responsive to the demands of the prisoners, who were in "misery", and that the prison guards, who were "often pleasant, if unprofessional", were unable to make meaningful change.[10]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate Name Register number Photo Status Details
R. Kelly 09627-035 Serving a 31-year sentence; currently at FCI Butner Medium I in Butner, North Carolina Initially arrested in Chicago for sex crimes and obstruction of justice; later tried and convicted in September 2021 on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for producing child pornography; 19 of those years will be served concurrently with his New York federal conviction.
James Marcello 99076-012 Serving a life sentence. Transferred to ADX Florence. "Front Boss" of the Chicago Outfit; convicted of racketeering, conspiracy for participating in 18 murders, and directing criminal activities including extortion, illegal gambling, loan sharking, and bribery.[11][12]
Heather Mack 72776-509 Awaiting sentencing Mack, who served 7 years in an Indonesian prison for the murder of her mother Sheila, was arrested upon arrival at O'Hare International Airport after being released and deported from Indonesia. In June 2023, she reached a plea agreement and was convicted on 1 count of conspiring to kill her mother with her then-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer to get access to a $1.5 million trust fund.[13]
Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez

Tomas Arevalo-Renteria



Vasquez-Hernandez is at FCI Fort Dix, scheduled for release in 2028. Arevalo-Renteria is at FCI Williamsburg scheduled for release in 2025. high-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel, a multibillion-dollar drug trafficking organization based in Mexico; extradited and indicted in 2012 on charges that they supplied Chicago with 2000 kilograms of cocaine per month, valued at over $1 billion.
Joseph Konopka 20749-424 Served a 20-year sentence, released 2019 Pleaded guilty in 2002 to causing blackouts in Wisconsin by damaging power substations and utility facilities, as well as storing potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide in the Chicago subway system; also known as "Dr. Chaos."
Kent Sorenson 15000-030 Served a 15-month sentence, released April 13, 2018 State Senator and Political Consultant sentenced to 15 months for federal campaign violations in regards to work performed on Ron Paul's presidential campaign
Nikesh A. Patel 61337-018 Serving a 25-year sentence. Currently listed as "Not in BOP custody." Orlando, Florida based businessman, who orchestrated the sale of 26 fraudulent loans totaling over $179 million. Patel is serving 25 years in Federal custody.
George Cottrell 46832-424 Released August 8, 2016 British politician, arrested at O'Hare International Airport by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in 2016. Federally indicted on 21 counts for conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud, blackmail and extortion.
Piper Kerman 11187-424 Served a 13-month sentence, released 2005 Money Laundering and Drug Trafficking
Ramon Abbas 54313-424 Serving an 11-year sentence at FCI Fort Dix Instagram influencer known as Hushpuppi charged with fraud
Thomas Zajac 22313-424 serving a 35-year sentence, scheduled for release in 2025. Currently at MCC Chicago Convicted in 2010 of using a destructive device and other charges for detonating a homemade pipe bomb at the Salt Lake City Public Library in Utah on September 15, 2006, in retaliation against Salt Lake City police for arresting his son.
Kevin Trudeau 18046-036 Served a 10-year sentence. Released in 2022. Convicted in 2013 of criminal contempt for violating a 2004 federal court order that prohibited him from making deceptive television infomercials that misrepresented the contents of his weight loss cure book.

Notable events[edit]

1985 escapes[edit]

In 1985, convicted murderers Bernard Welch and Hugh Colomb assembled the materials necessary to break open a window hole and gain egress from the MCC, escaping down a piecework rope to street level. They were eventually recaptured after a months-long nationwide manhunt.[14]

2009 escape plot[edit]

In October 2009, Matthew Nolan (28750-045), brother of film director Christopher Nolan, assembled bedsheets and other materials for a foiled window escape plan that was later called "impossible" by the judge who sentenced Nolan to 14 months for the attempt. Nolan was being held at the MCC awaiting extradition to Costa Rica on a passport charge (his charges having been reduced from earlier capital offenses) at the time of the foiled plot.[15]

Vicente Zambada-Niebla lawsuit[edit]

In February 2010, Sinaloa Cartel leader Vicente Zambada-Niebla was apprehended by Mexican police and extradited to Chicago to face trial. Considered a high security risk, he was placed in segregation (commonly known as "solitary confinement"). Based on intelligence that allies of Zambada-Niebla were planning a helicopter escape, Zambada-Niebla was not allowed access to the rooftop exercise yard. Bureau of Prisons officials cited the fact that the Sinaloa Cartel has unlimited resources and has succeeded in both escapes and assassinations in the past. Zambada-Niebla sued the Bureau of Prisons in 2011 claiming that his being denied exercise constituted cruel and unusual punishment. In September 2011, US District Judge Ruben Castillo ruled that since Zambada-Niebla had not been convicted, placing him in segregation was unwarranted.[16] In order to comply with the ruling and alleviate security concerns, the Bureau of Prisons transferred Zambada-Niebla to the Federal Correctional Institution, Milan, a medium-security facility in Michigan which has a ground-level exercise area.[17]

2012 escape[edit]

In the early morning hours of December 18, 2012, two convicted bank robbers, Kenneth Conley (28560-298) and Joseph "Jose" Banks (22652-424), escaped the secure facility. Conley and Banks were being housed in the MCC while awaiting sentencing on their bank robbery convictions, crimes which were unrelated beyond the pair being cellmates at the MCC.[18] The escape by Banks and Conley was the first from any secure federal correctional facility since April 2006, when convicted murderer Richard Lee McNair escaped from the U.S. Penitentiary, Pollock, Louisiana. The pair ostensibly fashioned a rope from bedsheets or fabric scraps,[19] and exited their 17th-floor cell through a hole created at the bottom of a narrow window slot, rappelling down the side of the MCC to the street below.[20]

Their escape and the gaping hole in the prison wall apparently went unnoticed during routine overnight bed checks, and was only discovered when arriving jail workers spotted the rope dangling down the side of the MCC at about 7:00 am.[20] The inmates had obtained and concealed large numbers of bedsheets, fake iron window bars used to mimic the real bars they removed and hid, passable street clothing, and bulky materials used to fool guards into believing they were asleep in bed. It is unclear what tools were used to create the hole in the wall necessary for the escape, and if these had been hidden in the cell for an extended period of time.[21]

Conley and Banks were subsequently recorded on a nearby video security system as they entered a cab at the corner of Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue at about 2:40 am.[22] In the video, they were wearing some form of light-colored plain clothes, and not their bright-orange, prison-issue jumpsuits. The identity of the cab driver and cab company, as well as how the convicts paid the cab fare, remained unclear.[23]

On December 20, 2012, Banks was recaptured by FBI agents and the Chicago police in the 2300 block of North Bosworth Avenue. On January 3, 2013, Conley was apprehended in Palos Hills, Illinois.[24][25] Conley and Banks are currently incarcerated at Florence ADX, the supermax facility in Colorado which holds the most dangerous inmates in the federal system, as well as inmates who constitute a high escape risk.[26][27] Their release dates are in 2032 and 2040. Banks filed a $10 million lawsuit in 2014 for negligence for allowing him to escape. The lawsuit was dismissed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bureau of Prisons Weekly Population Report". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  2. ^ "MCC Chicago". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  3. ^ Baldwin, Ian (May 2011). "The Architecture of Harry Weese". Places Journal (2011). doi:10.22269/110519.
  4. ^ a b The MCC: Chicago’s Jailhouse Skyscraper (Episode 26), 99% Invisible, 20 May 2011
  5. ^ "Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago | 117135 | EMPORIS". Archived from the original on May 13, 2015. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  6. ^ "MCC Chicago Inmate Admission and Orientation Handbook" (PDF). July 3, 2013.
  7. ^ Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black (Chapter 18: It Can Always Get Worse). 2010; ISBN 978-0-385-53026-2 (Location 4394).
  8. ^ Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black. 2010; ISBN 978-0-385-53026-2. Location 4467 (Chapter 18: It Can Always Get Worse).
  9. ^ Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black (Chapter 18: It Can Always Get Worse). 2010; ISBN 978-0-385-53026-2 (Location 4347).
  10. ^ Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black (Chapter 18: It Can Always Get Worse). 2010; ISBN 978-0-385-53026-2 (Location 4372).
  11. ^ Associated Press (September 11, 2007). "5 Guilty in Chicago Mob Case". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  12. ^ Sweeney, Annie (February 10, 2012). "Judge orders reputed onetime head of Chicago mob back to Chicago from California prison". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  13. ^ "Heather Mack, convicted in Bali of killing mom and stuffing body in suitcase, pleads guilty in US". AP NEWS. 2023-06-16. Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  14. ^ Babwin, Don (December 20, 2012). "Chicago jail escape resembles 1985 breakout". Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  15. ^ Burnette II, Daarel (July 7, 2010). "Nolan sentenced for escape attempt". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  16. ^ Goudie, Chuck. "Judge's ruling raises security concerns at MCC". abclocal go. ABC News. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  17. ^ Goudie, Chuck. "Mexican druglord unhappy with move from Chicago". ABC News. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  18. ^ Schmadeke, Steve (October 10, 2011). "Strip club worker held in Homewood bank robbery". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  19. ^ "Federal Arrest Warrants Issued for Chicago Jail Escapees". NBC News. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Prosecutors get protection after escape". United Press International. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  21. ^ "One Of Two Escaped Bank Robbers Captured; Second Still On The Run". CBS News. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  22. ^ Sweeney, Annie (December 19, 2012). "Manhunt widens for escaped bank robbers". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 19 December 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  23. ^ Babwin, Don (December 20, 2012). "Chicago Prison Escape Reminiscent Of 1985 Breakout, Manhunt Continues". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  24. ^ Sweeney, Annie (January 4, 2013). "Escapee's mother: 'I'm just glad it's over'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  25. ^ Main, Frank (January 4, 2013). "Second bank robber escapee arrested in Palos Hills". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 7 January 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  26. ^ Meisner, Jason (October 22, 2014). "'Transformed' jail escapee pleads for leniency, gets 36 years". Tribune Publishing. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  27. ^ Meisner, Jason (February 24, 2014). "Jail escapee tells judge to 'stick it' at sentencing". The Tribune Company. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  28. ^ Court tosses $10m suit",, September 25, 2015.

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