Judge: Allow suspected Mexican drug leader fresh air, exercise

September 28, 2011

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Federal Judge Castillo called the Metropolitan Correctional Center "antiquated."

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that an alleged Mexican drug cartel leader can go outside while being held in a Chicago jail. Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla is the son of one of Mexico's most notorious drug lords.

For the last 18 months, he's been denied fresh air and exercise at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. Judge Ruben Castillo says that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge cited court cases in his decision, and took into account the length of time Zambada-Niebla has already been locked up without violating any prison rules.

His ruling comes despite the prosecution's concerns that if allowed outside, Zambada-Niebla could try to escape, or even be assassinated.

"It's hard for me to believe as a judge who happens to have a view of the MCC, that he could be killed while exercising on a rooftop," Judge Castillo said.

That being said, the judge acknowledged that the Federal Bureau of Prisoners has to figure out how to safely allow for fresh air. He's asking the warden and attorneys to come together to find a solution.