Doin’ Time, Madoff Style

Federal prison differs quite a bit from the state-run big houses. Sure, the goal is the same, to lock up bad guys. But take a walk through each and you’d quickly see just how different they really are. For starters, federal prisons are normally super clean. Yep, they’re so darn clean you could eat off the floors, if you’re into that sort of thing. State prisons, well, not so clean. In fact, many of them are downright filthy. Of course, there are exceptions, so please don’t write me a nasty note telling me how you have the prisoners spit-shine your facility each and every day. Hmm… spit-shining. That’s probably what ol’ Bernie Madoff is doing at the facility next to the one pictured above.

Bernie’s retirement home, the medium security federal prison in Butner, N.C. Is it my imagination, or is the prison nestled into a heart-shaped plot of land? That’s so touching.

Here are are some other interesting facts about federal prison:

– The Butner federal prison complex is actually comprised of several separate prisons, a low, a medium, a medium II, a prison medical unit (hospital), and a satellite prison camp. Inmates at the camp take care of most of the outside maintenance at the other facilities.

Federal Medical Center at Butner

Inside the FCI-Medium at Butner. The building to the right is the library, classrooms, medical unit, and others. Inmates handle the landscaping.

FCI-Mediim II. This is where Madoff currently resides.

FCI – Low at Butner

– The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) operates 115 prisons

– At the beginning of the 1990’s, the federal prison population was less than 60,000. The government then started the war against drugs campaign. Now, there are approximately 209,000 inmates are incarcerated in federal prisons.

BOP Facts

– More than 36,000 employees work for the BOP.

– 37 federal prisoners have been executed since 1927. The most recent, Louis Jones, was in 2003.

– Approximately 35,000 federal prisoners are housed in privately-run prisons (prisons for profit).

– 94% of the federal  prison population is male.

– 56% of the federal inmate population is white.

– Approximately 70% of the federal prison population is serving a sentence of 5-10 years or higher.

– 52% of the federal prison population is serving time for drug offenses.

– Less than 11% of the federal prison population is serving time for white collar crime.

– 64% of the prison staff is white.

– Alcatraz was closed in 1963.

– Federal inmate telephone calls are normally limited to 300 minutes per month. The limit is sometimes raised during holiday seasons.

– Inmates are not allowed to possess any type of personal clothing. Only gray (sweats), white, or prison issued khaki-type clothing may be worn.

– Inmates may only possess 5 pairs of prison-purchased shoes, including slippers and shower thongs.

– Inmates may possess only one watch (valued at less than $100) and one radio (walkman-type).

– Inmates are allowed only 25 photos, including those of family members. Nude photographs are not permitted.

– Packages from home are not allowed, with the exception of clothing worn at the time of the prisoner’s release. That clothing will be kept in prison storage until release day.

6 replies
  1. Les Edgerton
    Les Edgerton says:

    Hi again, Lee,
    Sorry, but talking about TV and how they depict criminals, etc., reminds me of the series MSNBC does on joints where they go into them and show the inmates and interview ’em, and all that jazz.

    If you bought into their depictions, you’d think all prison populations consisted mostly of weight-lifters and nut cases. The truth is, the folks they show are in the decided minority. But, it makes for good TV, I suppose, never mind that it’s hugely inaccurate. Most inmates look like your neighborhood McDonald’s manager or worker or the accountant who does your taxes or the guy who works on your car or sells you your car. MSNBC chooses to show the 5% who make good copy, I guess. If you took the average prison population and dressed them in civilian garb, you’d have trouble picking most of them out as criminals–they’d look like a typical block party gathering in your neighborhood on the Fourth of July. Not saying there aren’t weight-lifters or wack-jobs; sure there are, but not in the numbers they show on this show. Fact is, most criminals are basically lazy (why, perhaps they’re criminals) and lifting weights is a lot of work most don’t want to do.

    Blue skies,

    P.S. In my former post awhile back, I mentioned that a scene in PULP FICTION was the only true account of the criminal mind I’d ever seen in fiction or film. I left out the only other one I’ve seen. That was the Woody Harrelson character in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. That was spot-on, at least for a common kind of criminal. In fact, Woody captures the criminal persona better than any other actor I’ve seen. In NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, he was again, spot-on. Nobody in Hollywood captures the criminal mind-set on film better, imo. In fact, in that movie, he portrayed a more accurate criminal than the sociopath who was going around killing everyone. That guy was just plain mental, while Woody gave us a true character.

  2. Les Edgerton
    Les Edgerton says:

    Hi Lee,
    I’d love to visit again, any time you want! I haven’t approached you because I didn’t want to wear out my welcome.

    While I have no experience with federal joints, I do with state prisons, having been incarcerated in one. However, I had a lot of friends in the joint who’ve done both kinds of time, and, to a man, all have the same opinion of federal joints. Country clubs… In comparison to state prisons, that is. No comparison.

    I talked about how TV and movies color the average straights’ view of prisons. The other night, I watched a new show on TV, where (bad) action actor Steven Segall is doing ride-alongs with the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s department. He claims he’s been a sheriff for 25 years with them, which I don’t doubt, but on the show he looks mostly like a ride-along sheriff. I doubt if he could run after and catch anyone… Anyway, in one episode, he talked about being best buds with deceased sheriff Harry Lee, and they interviewed surviving members of Lee’s family. Portrayed him to be a slightly less good ol’ American than Thomas Jefferson. Well, excuse me, but I lived in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish for many years during Lee’s reign, and I have a different take on Mr. Lee. I remember the big flap one year when public opinion forced him to divest himself of a bunch of massage parlors he owned (which were mostly brothels–I know, a girlfriend of mine worked in one). To get rid of them, he sold them to his sister or mother (forget which family member it was) for a dollar. Then, there was the time, reported on national news, where Lee ordered his men to set up roadblocks on all major streets leading into Jefferson and stopping all cars with two or more blacks in them. Said if there were this many blacks in a car, chances were they were there to commit crimes. He brought “profiling” to a new definition. This was about the time Segall says he became friends with Lee. Now, folks watching this show believe Lee was a great American and great sheriff and Segall is this “regular” good-ol’ boy cop. Okay… Color me a bit cynical… Once again, TV presents a “true” picture of cops and criminals…

    I’d love to come back, Lee. Gimme a topic and we’ll rap.

    Blue skies,

  3. Ramona
    Ramona says:

    Very interesting posts, both Lee’s and Terry’s.

    I’ve had occasion to visit someone incarcerated in a state prison. It wasn’t filthy, but I did want to douse myself in Purell when the visit was over. Some of that was certainly psychological.

    Lee, I don’t know if you’ve ever posted about what the reality of life in prison, but I think that would be illuminating to a lot of people. Not exactly the three-hots-and-a-cot plus free cable TV and all the weights you care to lift, that some of the public seems to think.

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