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Bernard Madoff's days of luxury homes, yachts, fine food and good mattresses have come to an end. And with a sentence of 150 years, he will likely never see the minimum-security work camps known as Club Fed. NPR's Laura Sullivan reports on what Madoff can expect.
LAURA SULLIVAN: The irony for Bernie Madoff is that his future comfort is going to come down to numbers. Federal prison officials assign inmates to prison based on a point schedule: college education, no history of violence, older age - good points. A hundred-and-fifty-year sentence: more bad points than he'll ever compensate for, all but ruling out any kind of minimum-security work camp. And his notoriety is going to work against him says Ed Bales, managing director of Federal Prison Consultants.
Mr. ED BALES (Managing Director, Federal Prison Consultants): I don't believe Bernie Madoff is going to give anybody any trouble in prison. But the fact is what are those other inmates going to do? Is he going to get killed? That's probably the number one question.
SULLIVAN: Experts say the best Bernie Madoff will do in his lifetime is probably a medium-security facility. He may even be placed in a supermax facility in solitary confinement if officials believe his safety is at risk. Prison officials say they won't begin placement until they receive all of Madoff's paperwork. They try to place inmates within 500 miles of home, which leaves Madoff with few good options, and several bad ones, like the Lewisburg facility in Pennsylvania, an aging high-security prison known for its gang violence.
Mr. PAT NOLAN (Former Minority Leader, California State Assembly): One of the phrases that's frequent in prisons is you've got nothing coming.
SULLIVAN: Pat Nolan was the minority leader of the California State Assembly until he pled guilty to racketeering for campaign fraud in the 1990s. He spent two years in a federal prison.
Mr. NOLAN: It's snarled at you like you are nothing. You come from nothing. You will be nothing. You lost everything.
SULLIVAN: Nolan says even in low-security levels, the danger is constant, and sometimes it's from correctional officers.
Mr. NOLAN: I was in with several millionaires and, boy, the officers really resented them.
SULLIVAN: It's not going to be easy for Madoff to make many friends, either. The average federal inmate is half his age. The majority are serving five to 10 years. And the total number of inmates nationwide serving time for banking or investment crimes: 854. Compare that to 100,000 inmates serving time for drug crimes, men like former inmate Marvin Ragland(ph). He sums up how most inmates feel about investment criminals.
Mr. MARVIN RAGLAND: Low man on the totem pole. Everybody hates those kind of guys.
SULLIVAN: Ragland served nine years for possessing and selling drugs. He says the prison code goes something like this.
Mr. RAGLAND: The greater the crime against society, the worse you are treated. I sold drugs, but everybody that I sold drugs to came to me. This guy went down grandma's house, told grandma that he had a great way for her to put her money and it would be safe and she wouldn't have to worry about it. Grandma's money is gone. Now she's got to figure out who's going to take care of her, and it burdens her whole family, right down to the grandkids.
SULLIVAN: Ragland says he's seen a lot of white-collar criminals cry in prison. They can't handle waiting three weeks to get extra paper to write on, asking permission to get a glass of water, having to barter with other inmates for an ink pen. They can't handle the violence or the loneliness. Ragland, who's now sober and about to graduate from trucking school, says he only survived it because he knew one day he would get out.
Mr. RAGLAND: It's going to be hell for him. It's going to be hell until you have to have something to dream of and hope for.
SULLIVAN: All Madoff can hope for now is that he'll be left alone.
Lauran Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.
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