There is a persistent belief among most Americans that those convicted of white collar crimes -- fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, etc. -- are sent to so-called "country club" prisons where they serve out their sentence in relative comfort and without substantial hardship. The reality, however, is that the federal low security prisons where these types of inmates are sent are a far cry from being either comfortable or accommodating.
Interestingly, a recent report by CNBC correspondent Scott Cohn sheds some light on the reality of life inside the Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone, located in northern Minnesota, where white collar crime inmates are housed in a low security setting.
According to Cohn, inmates are roused from their sleep every morning at 6 a.m. when the bright fluorescent lighting is suddenly turned on. This early morning wakeup call follows a night in which they are awakened three separate times -- 12 a.m., 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. -- for mandatory inmate counts.
Inmates are then given 90 minutes to clean themselves up, straighten their living quarters, get dressed and eat breakfast. From there, it's on to a menial job where the maximum that can ever be earned is $1.15 an hour.
While inmates are allowed visits with family and friends, these visits are limited to a few hours a week and subject to a monthly cap. Furthermore, the process of securing approval for a visit can prove to be rather tedious and the remote location of Sandstone makes it a difficult travel location.
As for the rumors that white collar criminals live in a country club environment, Cohn immediately shows this is far from the case.
He reports that Sandstone and other low-security prisons like it are comprised primarily of bars, locks, razor wire, concrete floors, cinder blocks and fluorescent lighting. While inmates are housed in dorm-style rooms or cubicles with bunk beds, desks and dressers there is virtually no privacy. Furthermore, television and internet access are strictly limited.
In light of the grave reality of life in a low security prison and the fact that there is no parole in the federal system, it's extremely important that anyone either under investigation or charged with a white collar crime consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.
Source: CNBC, "White collar 'country club' prisons? Not so much," Scott Cohn, Oct. 22, 2012