Human Rights

Brace Yourself Bernie Madoff, You Are Facing a Living Hell

When you look in the mirror you will think of your crime and how you wound up in prison. You will re-live your crime over and over.

Bernie, you are about to face a living hell. How I do I know? In 1985, I was sentenced to 15 years to life under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first time nonviolent drug crime. So I know all to well what your life is going to be like. You are about to spend the rest of your life behind bars for stealing an estimated $65 billion from thousands of people.

Right now you are probably in a daze. You are thinking about the life sentence you are facing. You are sitting in your cell most likely under surveillance because they do not want you to try to kill yourself. That's why the court officers told you to remove your belt and shoe lace strings or anything you can use to hang yourself in your holding cell. The thought of killing myself did not occur to me when I first went in, but after a few hours in a cell it did.

From there, it will only get worse.

Your identity will be taken away when you are stripped naked and ordered to bend over and spread your butt cheeks. You will be forced to comply to a body cavity search. If you don't, the officer conducting the search will call the "goon squad," about a half dozen killing machines who will come in dressed in battle gear, armed with batons looking for the troublemaker -- you. They won't care that you are 70 years old. They will strike blows in a way that will not leave bruises because you are a high profile case.

Once you are sitting in your temporary cell awaiting sentencing. They will isolate you because by this time, several contracts on your life have been taken out. And even those who are not contracted will want to take your head off so they can get their name in the paper. And it's only the beginning.

When you are sentenced in June, your knees will buckle because the possibility of spending the rest of your life in prison will become a reality. Your individual humanity will be over and you will become part of the prison collective.

After sentencing, you will be sent to federal facility that is an indoctrination center. Here, the authorities will teach you how to do time. They tell you the rules. Your life will be full of rules and regulations. It's something that is valuable because it can save your life in prison. By this time, the predators will try to befriend you. No doubt they will be scamming you to try and find out if and where you buried some of the money. They will try to out-scam the ultimate scammer. At first, they might offer you some smokes or some food in order to develop a relationship. Maybe some offer you protection. It will be a tough for you indeed.

Like all prisoners serving a long sentence, you will eventually learn what doing time is all about. It's not about only marking X's on your calendar. It's about learning how to live in the present, no matter how bleak the present is. Dwelling on your past and hoping for the future will become as painful as it is futile. You will have to forget about life on the outside in order to maintain your sanity on the inside.

You have a tough road ahead of you. When you look in the mirror you will think of your crime and how you wound up in prison. You will re-live your crime over and over. And as you pace back in forth in your small prison cell, the reality of you dying in that cell as a broken man will occur, over and over.

I suspect the victims of your scams won't shed many tears over your plight.

Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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