New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested today on federal corruption charges. While it’s not yet known what kind of sentencing Mr. Silver might face, the Observer compiled some helpful survival tips for him, should he eventually be shipped off to the slammer.
We solicited the advice of Larry Jay Levine, the founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, who teaches a class, by Skype, entitled Fed Time 101. Once a 10-year federal inmate himself, Mr. Levine now makes a living advising those facing the prospect of federal prison.
1. Prepare for the strip search.
When alleged criminals are arrested on federal charges, they’re first taken to a federal detention center, Mr. Levine said. During booking, besides having their fingerprints and photos taken, arrestees are also strip searched.
“They’re going to make him bend over—they could do a cavity search on him with a rubber glove, and reach up his ass,” Mr. Levine said of perps. “He’ll be standing there naked, and then they’re going to make him lift his scrotum to make sure he doesn’t have a handcuff key taped to his balls.”
When it’s all done, inmates are given an orange or white jumpsuit to wear.
2. Brush up on bathroom cleaning.
“The system likes to treat [politicians] like shit,” Mr. Levine said. “When [the prison guards] get a politician in a federal prison, they like to demean them.”
Their weapon of choice? “They’ll give him shitty jobs,” Mr. Levine continued, like cleaning toilets, cleaning showers, mopping floors, peeling potatoes, or cleaning pots and pans.
Mr. Levine also noted that every prison has a secret black market economy, wherein inmates illegally exchange goods and services.
“[A politician like Mr. Silver] may shine shoes to get money to buy commissary items,” Mr. Levine said. “He [could] go from being a high-powered politician to a shoe-shine boy for Latin drug traffickers.”
3. Be nice to your fellow inmates.
It’s not just the guards who hate politicians—it’s other inmates, too.
Should Mr. Silver go to prison, Mr. Levine predicts that some inmates might try to befriend him, thinking “maybe he could do something for them.”
But “other people will treat him like shit,” Mr. Levine continued. “If he’s disrespectful to people, somebody could take a sock, and put two or three bars of soap in that sock, and they swing that around and they smash you over the head with it.”
Mr. Levine suggests that Mr. Silver, an observant Jew, make friends with fellow Jews. “The Jewish inmates will probably take him under their wing,” he hypothesized. “I would bet on that.”
4. Even a place like Club Fed has its downsides.
If Mr’s Silver is convicted and sentenced to less than 10 years, it’s likely he will be sent to Club Fed—a minimum-security prison populated with non-violent, white-collar criminals.
“There are no fences, they don’t lock you in,” Mr. Levine said. “You’re playing sports activities against other inmates.”
Yet even the cushiest forms of incarceration have unique disadvantages.
“It’s a boring, boring existence,” he said. “It’s like Groundhog Day. It’s the same shit day in, day out.”