« "Lundbeck 'Horrified' at Drug Execution Use" | Main | "Predators and Punishment" »

June 8, 2011

Should Conrad Black's lord-like prison behavior impact his resentencing?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Chicago Tribune piece headlined "Affidavits: Conrad Black lorded over captive audience in prison."  Here are the details:

Conrad Black liked to be addressed as "Lord Black" after he was granted a seat in the British House of Lords.  He may have thought the privileges of nobility extended to prison. Two workers at the Florida federal prison where Black was an inmate say he lorded over other inmates, making them perform menial tasks for him, such as ironing his clothes....

Their observations were included in affidavits the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago recently filed ahead of Black's scheduled resentencing June 24 on his two remaining convictions....  Federal prosecutors would like to send Black back to prison to complete the 6 1/2-year sentence he received in 2007 for defrauding investors and obstructing justice. Black was freed on bail last year while he appealed his conviction after serving about 29 months. Two of his fraud convictions were vacated.

Black's attorneys have advocated that his time served is a sufficient sentence for the remaining crimes.  In petitioning that Black not be returned to prison, his attorneys described him as a model inmate who tutored other prisoners who were preparing for their General Educational Development tests and volunteered to teach them American history and social economics.

The U.S. attorney's office said Black's characterization of his time behind bars was not entirely accurate.  In one of the affidavits, a unit manager at the prison said Black had an entourage of inmates "who performed services for him, acting like servants."

A prison education specialist who supervised Black as a tutor said he was an uninterested instructor.  "He projected the attitude that he was better than others in the class, both faculty and students."  She added that some inmates saluted Black each day in class.

Black's attorneys denied the government's portrayal of his prison conduct and said they will present a "full and accurate" picture of his activities later this month in court.

The Supreme Court's Pepper ruling earlier this year makes plain that Black's post-sentencing prison behavior can be considered among the 3553(a) factors at his resentencing.  But Pepper does not solve the harder question of exactly when and how post-sentencing behavior in prison should impact a resentencing, especially when there are conflicting stories about just what kind of inmate a defendant has been.

In the Black case, I doubt the dueling assertions about Conrads Black's prison behavior will have much of an impact on his resentencing.  But maybe others think a sentencing judge ought to find this kind of information especially important in this kind of case.

June 8, 2011 at 10:38 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Should Conrad Black's lord-like prison behavior impact his resentencing?:


If Conrad Black broke any rules in prison -- for instance, if having an inmate entourage is against institutional policy -- then that would be grist for the resentencing mill. The fact that he has high self-esteem and that the government views him as insufficiently humble, on the other hand, should not be a consideration. Defendants are not required to pass a self-abasement test.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein | Jun 8, 2011 1:45:48 PM

Jonathan is 100% correct. In NY, his actions would have broken several prison rules. Such misbehavior reports would have been part of the resentencing process. I cannot believe that having such an entourage is officially permitted in Florida, but if the prison employees did not do their jobs then it should be too late now.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 8, 2011 2:36:20 PM

Again, the State's sentencing objectives fall into two categories, accountability and risk control. An offender's accountability is fixed at the time of sentencing; it does not change. Black's post sentencing behavior should have no influence on the extent to which he is held accountable. Risk is changeable; post sentence behavior may influence an assessment of that risk. In this case the behavior you describe is irrelevant from a risk point of view.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Jun 8, 2011 3:09:20 PM

" but if the prison employees did not do their jobs then it should be too late now."

OK Tarls. Does the following sound familiar? It should, you said it.

"Yeah, "as it should be" (but if) is always the kicker. Guess what? The world does not always work "as it should be." Prison staff work 8 hours per day, 5 days a week to thwart criminal behavior. Inmates spend 24/7 thinking of ways to get around it"

So, do you recommend giving him a pass because the prison officials failed to do their jobs?

Posted by: Thomas | Jun 8, 2011 7:12:05 PM


actualy thomas i'm pretty sure florida would not allow him to build his own gang. but they would not say a word about people hanging out and helping each other no matter how one sided it was unless they had some evidence of force or coercion involved.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 8, 2011 10:48:51 PM

What drivel! And you don't even opine on the fatuousness of the government's position, Prof. Doug? Tsk.

I reasonably imagine Conrad Black was paying otherwise-income-limited inmates for the services. Without Black's employment offers, doubtful that the inmates would be able to purchase much at commissary. Of course they can't tell the feds about these quiet, widespread agreements.

The feds aren't paying the inmates. How do you suppose they can afford the retail cost of items sold at commissary---which benefits the prison guards, since the merchandise is sold through their prison union, or whatever the name of their "corrections" corporation. That's why the guards turn a blind eye.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Jun 9, 2011 8:06:12 AM

not sure what the weekly limits for inmates canteen purchases in federal custody. i do know in florida it's $45.00 a week.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 9, 2011 12:27:14 PM

Of course he was paying other inmates to do his laundry, etc. Anybody who can does - few machines and limited time are two reasons another is there are those who make a living doing other inmates washing and ironing. As to a following? Again, of course. He is rich, important and might be able to help other inmates when they are released. Further, he has interesting information and resources available through his life experiences and contacts. Few inmates get to meet and converse with a person from Blacks' social and business level. He constituted a social net working opportunity...who wouldn't try to access it?

Posted by: Tim Rudisill | Jun 10, 2011 5:17:52 AM

Granted, we’re doing a hell of a lot wrong in regards to our educational and prison system, but this post I recently read (linkage here for those interested: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=C2JTAPL1HB61&preview=article&linkid=b48c58db-83b8-4ade-9df5-c265a9f83d64&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d) seems to combine the two for what I see as an ideal situation. Although an expense, consider the advantages of educating our prisoners. Be it hope or a newfound sense of purpose, getting our of prison will be that much more solid for these guys and potentially that much less intrusive of our taxpayer pocketbook. Just my thoughts. A little off topic, but your post made me think of that.

Posted by: Pierre Dowing | Jun 16, 2011 11:01:19 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB