Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Serving time at Club Fed

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It’s not so nice as it once was—in fact, not nice at all. Here’s one guy’s account:

Alfred A. Porro Jr. came to Allenwood in a large transport bus guarded by a handful of armed correc­tions officers. Like the five other prisoners on board, he arrived in full shackles. As the bus rumbled to a stop, the officers escorted the new inmates off the vehicle and turned them over to their keepers.

Porro disembarked with relief. Over the past two days, he had been whisked from one prison to another—no one would tell him where he was headed. Now, at least, Porro knew he would be serv­ing his time at a minimum-security prison camp. Good news, he thought. And the grounds, Porro had to admit, were less than intimidating. With sweeping grasslands and thickets of trees, the camp presented none of the chilling images that the term “prison” calls to mind. No fences, no coiled razor wire, no sharpshooters on towers. It might as well have been a college campus.

But as he took his first steps onto the prison grounds, Porro became overwhelmed with dread. He was 64 years old, with seven children and 11 grand­children. During the good times, he was a respected lawyer and a business partner to Lawrence Taylor, the famous Giants football star. When he went on trial, the press called him the “Teflon attorney,” who had made “Houdini-like escapes” from previous investigations. At his core, he still considered him­self a man of deep faith. But on that day, November 11, 1999, Al Porro was just another convicted felon disappearing into the federal prison system.

He carried another burden into Allenwood as well. A few days earlier, his wife, Joan, had reported to the minimum-security Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, to begin a prison sentence of nearly five years. Porro shuddered with guilt at the hardships she now faced. “My wife went to jail because of me,” he said. “You have to know how dev­astated I was to see my wife crying and shackled and to know that it was because of me.”

II. Welcome to Prison Camp

Porro became prisoner No. 20532-050 when a jury of five men and seven women found him and his wife guilty on 19 counts that included wire fraud and filing false taxes. “Justice finally caught up with Alfred Porro,” U.S. Attorney Faith Hochberg told the Newark Star-Ledger, shortly after the conviction.

Like many other white-collar convicts, Porro wound up in a prison camp—a punishment often dismissed as a Club Fed holiday for wealthy, well-con­nected criminals, who spend their days sunbathing and working on their short irons. But scores of interviews with former inmates, legal experts, aca­demics, members of advocacy groups, and others who know prisons paint a starkly different picture. In recent years, changing demographics, tighter reg­ulations, and lengthening sentences have combined to make life in prison camps more and more similar to life in higher-security facilities. “It’s not Yale, it’s jail,” says Dennis Faulk, a retired employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons who spent part of his 27-year career at Allenwood prison camp. “We don’t separate a white-collar guy from an orga­nized-crime guy from a bank robber—they’re all the same.”

Certainly, if you have to go to jail, federal prison camp is the place to be. But for inmates who have left behind powerful jobs, close families, and abun­dant lifestyles, prison camp can present significant hardships. “You’ve been giving orders your whole life, and now there’s this buffoon with an IQ of 20 telling you to clean the toilet—and you’ve got to do it,” said one representative of a prisoner-advocacy group.

After serving five years in two different facili­ties, Porro reflected on his experience. “It’s a hellish place,” he said, “especially for a white-collar guy.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 May 2007 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

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