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Like an anthropologist dropped into an exotic village, Rudolph seems fascinated by the Arab inmates. "They're an extremely fatalistic people," he wrote. "This time must be very rough on them for they have little interest in anything other than the Middle East, President Bush and Islam. But at least they have each other and rattle on endlessly in Arabic."
Rudolph is getting his neighbors to teach him their language. He picks it up one phrase at a time. He wrote his mother, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., that "Kyfa ta Kool," which he spelled out phonetically, means "How do you say ...?" Sometimes the other inmates are eager to communicate with Rudolph, other times they are "sulking or buried in some Arabic hell of depression."
In ADX, the spartan cells are designed to keep inmates from hurting themselves--and their guards. Each 7- or 8-ft. by 12-ft. space contains a molded concrete bunk, stool and desk; a steel shower, sink and toilet, and a small black-and-white TV encased in Plexiglas to prevent tampering. At one end of the cell is a solid steel door, and a small vestibule--for the use of guards when they enter--separated from the living quarters by steel bars. There is one 4-in. by 4-ft. window. Rudolph's is over his bed, looking out on the prison yard. "Through the slit window one can see the sky, but other than this and the few small birds that roost on the prison roof, there are no signs of the natural world."
The inmates have almost no physical contact with other people. Food, mail and laundry are delivered through a slot in the steel bars. Prisoners have a choice of two kinds of meals: the regular plan consists of typical American food: casseroles, hamburgers, blue-plate specials. The alternative is a diet conforming to almost all religious restrictions. It contains no pork and incorporates lots of beans and vegetables. Muslims get special mealtimes during the month of Ramadan, when the observant do not eat during daylight hours.
Prison staff sit in control booths from which they operate the doors and surveil the corridors using sound monitors and cameras. To keep the inmates occupied, they offer crossword puzzles, bingo and Jeopardy competitions through flyers or through a closed-circuit TV channel. "The Muslims are obsessed with the games, they chatter endlessly about the possible answers," Rudolph wrote. The winners are rewarded with a candy bar or a picture of themselves. Being a Westerner puts Rudolph at an advantage in the trivia games, and his foreign neighbors depend on his help. "Moments after they post the questions on Monday morning, the yelling begins. 'Areek, what the answers? Who is President in the War of 1812?'"
Television is another distraction. ADX sources say inmates get basic cable service, although nothing as fancy as HBO, and can choose what to watch, though these privileges can be taken away as punishment for rules violations. Rudolph says he gets 60 channels, including music-radio stations and local news. A special prison channel offers educational shows, courses in anger management and a smorgasbord of religious programs dealing with faiths ranging from Catholicism to the Nation of Islam and even Asatru, the ancient Norse religion favored by Aryan supremacists.