By Amir Ifrati, WSJ Law Blog – Yesterday at 11:15 a.m. Bernard Madoff entered a medium security prison (pictured) in Butner, N.C.
We don’t know exactly how Madoff will fill his first days there, but it will no doubt be a big welcome change from his previous home in Manhattan for the last seven months, the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
“He was a in cell for 23 hours a day with four other guys in his row. He was fed in the cell, he showered in the cell,” Herb Hoelter, a prison consultant who advised Madoff, told the Law Blog. Butner “is an improvement. He’ll have recreation, the light of day, regular phone calls and showers and visitors.”
He called Butner an “appropriate” place for Madoff because it’s “next door to a medical center. And if at some point during the incarceration he qualifies for a low security facility, he can be transferred literally down the road” to a different part of the Butner complex.
Hoelter also said Mr. Madoff is likely to have at least one friend to help him adjust to his new life; a number of Hoelter’s clients who are serving time in Butner are bound to take Mr. Madoff under their wing. “It’s like a buddy system,” says Mr. Hoelter, who declined to say which of his clients might be paired with Madoff.
As for how he will be treated by other prisoners, Hoelter says Madoff’s prison term could be a plus. “The fact that he has a life sentence and a sentence longer than any other inmate…will give him credibility with other inmates,” he said.
What kind of advice did he give to Madoff? “It’s a matter of keeping your space and having respect for other people,” Hoelter said. The key for inmates like Madoff is to “bring some meaning to your life.” He said that can be done in many ways, including becoming a GED teacher to other inmates. “He’s sensitive enough and smart enough,” Hoelter said of Madoff. “I don’t think anyone who knows him would be surprised that he will do some good things.” (Hoelter, who started his firm, Baltimore-based National Center for Institutions and Alternatives, in 1979, previously said he waived his fee for Madoff because his assets were frozen.)
Steven Oberfest, a prison consultant and partner in the firm PrisonCoach.com, takes a different tack. “[I]t’s a general, nasty, medium-security-type prison. I couldn’t see him functioning as well there,” Oberfest told WSJ’s Paul Glader.
He said prisoners will be well-educated about Madoff from media reports. “All eyes are going to be on him,” he said. He also said Madoff would need to be careful of inmates who may be paid, by people Madoff defrauded, to intimidate him in prison. “If you screw someone over for $100 million, they will find someone on the inside and get even with you. There are always going to be favors. That’s just the way it is.”
“I’m concerned for Madoff. There is so much info about his wife. His wife’s name. His kids. All this stuff is out there. When you are in there and around a group of people, they will say things like, ‘Hey, I hear Ruth is a real hot babe.’ Things like that,” he said. “It’s like a big poker game. He’s walking in with his cards showing and everyone else is holding their cards. He definitely goes in with a disadvantage.”
For our lawyer-readers out there, we’d like to know what you think. Have prison consultants helped your clients live a better life in prison?