JPay Blog

Madoff Jail Won’t be as Bad as “Shawshank”, Expert Says

So what will happen next for Bernard Madoff, who recently pleaded guilty for operating what was essentially the biggest ponzi scheme in the history of the United States?
While he could face up to a maximum 150-year sentence, a question that arises is how and where exactly will that possibility play out?

One thing is certain: wherever he winds up, it will not very much resemble his seven million dollar luxury apartment in New York, where the disgraced seventy year old financier had been comfortably hold up along with his wife after having posted his bail of ten million dollars.

Mr. Madoff may try to ask the judge if he could be put in a prison of his choice and, subsequently, the judge could forward his formal request to the Bureau of Prisons. And it is the Federal Bureau of Prisons that ultimately chooses where the would-be inmate will be incarcerated. So while the recommendations of the judge do carry influence, they do not have the binding authority of the law.

A concern amongst the angry followers of this trial is if Mr. Madoff will be sentenced to a “Club Fed” type of facility or if he will serve “real hard time.” There are those who say that “Club Feds” no longer exist. There were many such facilities, they claim, in Florida, Pennsylvania, and perhaps most famously, the Nellis Federal Prison in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas, but most of them (including Nellis) have been shut down.

No one yet knows exactly where Mr. Madoff will be sent, but the criteria that is considered by the bureau includes how serious the offense is, how long they expect the inmate to be incarcerated, the inmate’s history of violence and escape attempts, the age of the prisoner, and general security requirements. And as a general guideline, they try to send the inmates to prisons that are less than 500 miles from their homes.

In recent times  (post Watergate and Abscam) there has been a degree of diversity regarding what types of prison facilities high profile, white collar  “celebrity” inmates have been sent to. For example, former Tyco Chief Executive Officer Dennis Kozlowski was sentenced to a relatively tough medium security prison in upstate New York; however, when Martha Stewart was jailed for five months for insider trading, she was incarcerated in West Virginia’s Alderson Federal Prison, which has colloquially been referred to as “Camp Cupcake” for its easy living, minimum security conditions.

Wherever Mr. Madoff winds up, it is certain to be a subject of discussion and argument for case watchers of all stripes.