The Specter of Prison Becomes Real
One commenter to this blog earlier today brought up the point that, perhaps up until now, Jeffrey K. Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay may not have contemplated spending actual time in jail. Now, assuming their convictions do not get overturned on appeal, that is a near-certainty.
Legal experts have speculated that the two would be sentenced to a medium-security prison, not the light-security federal work camps once nicknamed "Club Fed." Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site, medium-security FCIs (Federal Correctional Institutes) have "strengthened perimeters (often double fences with electronic detection systems), mostly cell-type housing, a wide variety of work and treatment programs, an even higher staff-to-inmate ratio than low security FCIs, and even greater internal controls."
Medium-security prisons are sometimes part of a larger complex, such as in Beaumont, Tex., the closest to Houston, which has low-, medium- and high-security prisons.
Lay and Skilling will each get eight-digit registration numbers, khaki uniforms and enter the prison's general population, or "GenPop." It is not known where they would be assigned, but they can request where they will be incarcerated. A look at the regulations for Beaumont medium shed some light on what life is like behind the walls of the kind of place where Lay and Skilling may spend many, many years.
They could have a bank account for prison commissary purchases. Friends and family can deposit money into the accounts. This may have poignant impact on Skilling, whose net worth was once as much as $70 million.
They will be allowed visitors only during certain hours and on certain days. At Beaumont, inmates get 12 points at the beginning of each month and are charged one point for a weekday visit and two for a weekend visit. Visitors are not allowed to wear khaki (resembles inmate uniforms), athletic wear (potential of gang association) or suggestive clothing, such as Spandex, shorts, skirts above the knees or sleeveless garments.
They would be required to work at jobs such as plumbing, painting and groundskeeping, earning 12 cents to 41 cents per hour. If they're lucky, they could get a job in the prison factory, where wages are as much as $1.15 per hour. From 1999 to 2001, Lay's total compensation at Enron was $223 million.
No jail time is easy time, whether you're in a minimum-security joint or a SuperMax, where you get strip-searched each time you get to leave your cell for one hour per day. Aside from the threat of violence, the real killers are loss of control and, maybe even worse, sheer boredom. Each moment of an inmate's life is scripted, even if it's scripted only as "time to do nothing but sit and stare."
For men such as Lay and Skilling, this truly could be capital punishment. Both spent their careers giving orders, not taking them. Lay showed, on the witness stand, that he could not relinquish control even to his own lawyer to run his defense. Both men created environments favorable to them, from their home life to their work life. They created their habitat and their habits. Now, they may have no say in either.
While I was reading all of the prison rules that an inmate must follow, one jumped out at me. It's a non-issue to most inmates, but it must be a blow to the heart of what Lay and Skilling were: "No inmate is permitted to actively engage in a business or profession while incarcerated."
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