Why is Leavenworth prison so famous? 8 infamous inmates held in the prison

Why is Leavenworth prison so famous? 8 infamous inmates held in the prison

Leavenworth prison is one of America's most notorious prisons. It was the country's largest maximum-security prison until 2005 when it was downgraded to a medium-security facility and housed approximately 1,670 inmates. The institution is the only federal prison in Kansas. It is known for housing some of the most infamous inmates in history.

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Leavenworth prison
The United States Penitentiary as seen on March 22, 2012, in Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo: Julie Denesha
Source: Getty Images

In the United States, the most common form of punishment and rehabilitation for felonies and other offences is incarceration. The United States has the world's largest prison population and the highest per-capita incarceration rate.

Why is Leavenworth prison so famous?

According to Crime Capsule, the prison is famous for holding some of America's notorious inmates. Here are eight of Leavenworth's penitentiary's famous inmates.

1. Duane Earl Pope – Bank robber

Leavenworth prison
Duane Earl Pope mugshots. Photo: fbi.gov (modified by the author)
Source: UGC

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According to Kearny Hub, Duane Earl Pope is responsible for the bloodiest bank robberies in Midwestern history. On 4 June 1965, Pope entered Farmers State Bank, claiming to need a loan. He then shot the bank employees in the back and neck.

As a result of his crimes, Earl received the death penalty punishment. However, his death sentence was downgraded, after changes in the law, and he was sent to Leavenworth to serve a life sentence.

Earl was a convict in Leavenworth until 1 July 2016, when he was transferred to Nebraska to serve other three life sentences.

2. Holden-Keating Gang – Robbers

Leavenworth prison
Thomas James Holden mugshot. Photo: fbi.gov (modified by author)
Source: UGC

According to Grunge, Thomas James Holden was the first person ever to be included in the FBI's most-wanted list. Holden was singled out by police and government officials after murdering his wife and two brothers.

Francis Keating, another robber, and Holden formed a gang responsible for stealing millions of dollars in cash and securities from banks in the 1920s and 1930s. The duo were caught but escaped from prison in 1930.

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However, two years later, the duo were caught again and returned to jail in 1932.

3. Randy Lanier – Sports figure

Leavenworth prison
Randy Lanier, a professional race car driver and convicted drug trafficker, poses for a portrait at the Swap Shop & Drive-In Theater in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 3 July 2015. Photo: Rick Dole
Source: Getty Images

According to the Guardian, Randy Lanier was a professional race car driver and convicted drug trafficker. After being caught, Lanier claimed that he entered drug trafficking to sustain his profession in racing.

He was charged with conspiring to distribute more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana and being the principal administrator of a Continuing Criminal Enterprise between 1982 and 1986.

Randy was sentenced to life in prison in 1988 but was released on 15 October 2014.

He is best known for his racing efforts in the mid-80s, including winning the 1984 IMSA Camel GT title for the wholly independent Blue Thunder Racing team.

4. Tom Petters – Fraud

Leavenworth prison
Tom Petters during John T. Petters Foundation Legacy Gala at The Hilton in 2006, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Photo: J. Vespa
Source: Getty Images

According to Justice.gov, the former CEO was convicted in 2009 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. In addition, Tom was responsible for orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme, the second-largest fraud case in U.S. history.

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Currently, Tom is serving a 50-year-prison sentence and is scheduled for release in 2051.

5. Machine Gun Kelly – Gangster

Leavenworth prison
George Celino Barnes, better known as "Machine Gun Kelly" (1895-1954), was an American gangster. In 1933. Photo: adoc-photos (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

According to the Crime Museum, George Cellino Barnes (Kelly) was a notorious gangster involved in bootlegging, kidnapping, and armed robbery. For example, in July 1933, he was responsible for the kidnapping of oil tycoon and businessman Charles F. Urschel.

Kelly and his gang demanded a $200,000 ransom for the abduction, approximately $4.2 million in modern times.

George was arrested and convicted of this and other crimes and was sent to USP Leavenworth from 1933 to 1934. He escaped but was caught and served jail time from 1951 to 1954 when he died.

6. Luis Hernando Gómez – Drug lord

Leavenworth prison
Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante (R) is registered by police on 08 February 2007 in Bogota, Colombia, after being deported from Cuba. Photo: AFP
Source: Getty Images

According to State.gov, Luis Hernando Gómez alias Rasguo is a Colombian drug lord and member of the Norte Del Valle Cartel. Approximately 500 metric tonnes of cocaine were processed and smuggled through his organisation.

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Between 1990 and 2004, drugs worth more than $10 billion were smuggled into the United States, Mexico, and Europe.

Gomez pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in a Washington court on 18 October 2008. He was sentenced to 25 years in Leavenworth and will be released in 2032.

7. Felix Mitchell – Drug lord

Leavenworth prison
A scene from the movie New Jack City, based on the life of Felix Mitchell. Photo: @kingdafi
Source: Facebook

According to Black Past, Felix Wayne Mitchell was the leader of the 69 Mob, a gang that sold millions of dollars in heroin across California in the early 1980s. The organisation used various tactics to defend its turf, including violence and intimidation.

Mitchell was apprehended and convicted in 1985 after being sought by local and federal authorities. Unfortunately, Felix was stabbed to death while serving a life sentence at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary on 21 August 1986.

8. Fritz Joubert Duquesne – Espionage

Leavenworth prison
Frederick Duquesne in the office of Harry Sawyer, 25 June 1941, one of a set of five photographs of spy Fritz Duquesne, seated, talking to Harry Sawyer, the FBI interviewer. Photo: Photo12
Source: Getty Images

According to the FBI, Fritz was the leader of the Duquesne Spy Ring. The organization consisted of N*zi spies, that operated in the U.S. from 1939 to 1941. As a result, he was arrested and convicted.

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Fritz was sent to USP Leavenworth for 18 years for his crime. He was 64 years old at the time of his sentencing.

Is Leavenworth only a military prison?

No. The facility is a civilian prison. The United States Penitentiary Leavenworth is the oldest of three major prisons built on federal land in Leavenworth County, Kansas.

It is not to be confused with the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB), Leavenworth military prison, on the nearby Fort Leavenworth army post.

Is Leavenworth a real prison?

Yes. It is a medium-security U.S. penitentiary with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp and has been operational since 1903.

Where is Leavenworth prison?

Leavenworth detention centre is located in Leavenworth, Kansas, 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Kansas City.

Is Leavenworth prison dangerous?

Yes. According to the Missouri Independent, the centre was the site of two suicides and at least ten severe beatings and stabbings in 2021.

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Where was the first U.S. federal penitentiary?

According to the NICIC, the first federal prison was in Leavenworth, Kansas. The federal government first housed inmates at the institution in 1906.

Leavenworth prison is one of the most well-known jails in the United States. It has housed some of the most famous criminals. Furthermore, the facility is the first federal prison built in the United States.

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